No Second Place Winner
by WILLIAM H. "BILL" JORDAN
Assistant Chief Patrol Inspector
U. S. Border Patrol
© Copyright 1965 by W. H. Jordan
First Printing 1965
Second Printing 1967
Third Printing 1970
Fourth Printing 1973
Fifth Printing 1975
Sixth Printing 1975
Seventh Printing 1977
626 Ashbourne Drive
Shreveport, La. 71106
Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 65-22080
Photographs by Louis M. Werne, Jr.
Printed in the United States of America
No Second Place Winner
OVER THE past thirty years I have been privileged to know and work with
a group of men unique in the annals of law enforcement — the Peace Officers of
our great Southwest. The word "group" is descriptive, for although they were
of no one service they formed a close knit brotherhood, representative of all
branches of government: state troopers and Texas Rangers, city police and
village constables, sheriffs and their deputies, alcohol tax investigators, agents
of the FBI and of the Treasury Department, and inspectors of the U. S. Border
Patrol. Here the dissimilarity ended. They were cast from the same mold. To
them, my companeros of many years and many trails, this book is dedicated.
It is written of the weapons and leather of which their lives were compounded
and of the gun skills they learned in the smoke of little fights, important only to
those involved. The highest praise that could be spoken by one of this group
was to say, "He'll do to ride the river with." Thus I salute them, one and all.
The world will not see their like again.
BILL JORDAN is the fastest man on the draw that I have ever seen in action.
He has been practicing the quick draw for thirty years that I know of. You can
get pretty sharp at slapping leather after three decades of practice. Bill can hold
a ping pong ball on top of his hand, bare inches above the holstered gun, sud-
denly drop the ball, go for his shooting iron and blast the ball as it falls past the
holster. You've got to be fast to do that.
What maybe makes more of an impression on me than his lightning draw is
his point shooting accuracy. As a regular feature of a shooting exhibition he
draws, shoots from the hip double action, and hits aspirin pills neatly lined up
on a table some ten feet in front of him. And, if this was not enough, he winds
up the amazing exhibition by splitting a playing card edgeways! Most fellows
could not hit these tiny targets if they took deliberate aim and squeezed the
trigger! Jordan says he can "feel" the gun point at these peewee targets. It ap-
pears to the slightly goggle-eyed onlooker that his .357 must have built-in
radar! When, in addition to the above, you consider that this man is an NRA
Lifetime Master with the pistol, big bore rifle and small bore rifle; a "AA" skeet
and trap-shooter; and a Distinguished Marksman; it becomes apparent that
when he speaks about shooting it will be worth while to listen.
Although most of his time is occupied by his duties as Assistant Chief Patrol
Inspector with the United States Border Patrol, Bill is much in demand and
appears often as a public relations gesture for his Service at civic and social
clubs and as an instructor at police academies around the country.
For the past seven consecutive years he has instructed classes in fast draw
and combat shooting in the police section of the Small Arms Firing School at
the National Pistol Matches. He uses his leave touring the country putting on
quick draw and fast shooting exhibitions on the circuit of the Knife and Fork
Clubs, Inc. Looking the typical Texan, at least six and-a-half feet tall and as
lanky as a beef critter eating greasewood, Jordan has a repertoire which fits his
appearance and his shooting. He never resorts to any "trick" shooting. Every-
thing is on the up-and-up and all his demonstration is entirely practical with
safety stressed throughout. The equipment used is the working rig of officers all
over the country, a Sam Browne belt with holster of his design and a .357
double action revolver. He fires wax bullets when performing indoors.
With thirty years as a federal officer behind him, Jordan has a rich back-
ground for the authorship of this treatise on gun fighting. He has rubbed
shoulders with gun fighters throughout the years; talked to scores of them;
compared notes and watched them in practice. These associations, together
with his own three decades of law enforcement, place him in the unique posi-
tion of probably being our best authority on a game in which, as he so aptly
puts it, there are "no second place winners."
I commend this book to you as the best thing I have read on a highly
Colonel Charles Askins
Table of Contents
CHAPTER ONE 11
FIGHTIN' LEATHER 19
CARE AND FITTING OF HOLSTER 35
FAST DRAW 45
CALIBERS AND LOADS 75
PRACTICE LOADS 83
COMBAT STYLE SHOOTING 91
GUN FIGHTING 101
THE BORDER between two countries has always had a powerful attraction
for the lawless of both. It offers two advantages to such characters by its very
nature. First, the lure of a quick buck to be picked up by smuggling into and
out of both countries. Second, the convenience of getting a running start away
from retribution by crossing over to temporary sanctuary in the adjacent
country. It is a natural consequence that armed clashes between criminals and
officers are more common in such areas than elsewhere. Along our Mexican
border the frequency of these affrays reached epic proportions during the days
of national prohibition and the great depression. That they are less frequent
today is the sum of several factors: repeal of prohibition; national prosperity;
good roads into isolated areas; and the lesson painfully learned by the border
characters that they invariably came out on the short end when they attempted
armed resistance. This lesson was patiently taught over and over again by a
hardbitten brotherhood of instructors, the peace officers of our great South-
west. The Border Patrol was a member in good standing of that distinguished
Before these lessons were fully absorbed by the smuggling gentry, gunfights
along the Rio Grande became so commonplace that officers not involved
seldom bothered to investigate the shooting. They just assumed that another
class was in session and went about their affairs in confidence that the lesson
plan would be followed faithfully, efficiently, and with all deliberate speed.
As could be expected with such experienced fighters involved, many of these
battles ended with the case marked closed and no further legal action neces-
sary, other than that required of the nearest coroner.
It will be evident in the following chapters that this book has not been
written with the entertainment of the reader as a primary goal. It is more in
the nature of a text dealing with entirely serious aspects of an area of gun usage
little covered by other writings with which I am familiar. However, as any
good officer can tell you, law enforcement is not entirely the humorless
profession it must appear to the outside observer. Mostly, the few anecdotes
which will be used herein fit in with the text material and are included to
illustrate or drive home some point. So perhaps in this opening chapter, with
no attempt at correlation with any point made in the book, a few observations
and stories illustrating that these affairs are occasionally leavened by a humor-
ous or even comic touch will not be amiss. While apropos to nothing else
herein they may serve to lighten what is otherwise admittedly a grim business.
Actually, since in review the above reasoning seems a little lame, I may as well
admit that my publisher advised me confidentially that, strictly from a com-
mercial viewpoint, he considered the book to be a little on the thin
side . . . and suggested that I add a little filler material to fatten it
up . . . like a few wild stories of perilous adventures and derring
do . . . thus making it appear more attractive to the buying public, and
giving them a feeling of having gotten their money's worth through sheer
weight of material.
Now, I have found that adventures are usually the result of inefficiency or
lack of planning and can be best defined as something you didn't realize you
had until you were safe back at home where you were wishing you were when
you were having it. Nevertheless, while not wishing to clutter up the re-
mainder of the book, at the same time I am not one to argue with a publisher or
to let brevity interfere with prosperity. Which accounts for my now being in
the unusual position of writing this first chapter after having finished the book.
—Oh, well. . . .
There was the night in El Paso when a Border Patrol team, going in to the
river at dusk to watch a hot crossing, ran head on into a smuggling train coming
out of the river at that point. Now these affairs had been going on so long that
they had through custom become pretty highly formalized. The boss smuggler
would hire Pistoleros to guard his shipment, the number and quality of these
reflected in the value of the cargo and the prestige to be maintained or
enhanced by the smuggler. These Pistoleros, with the highest paid and most
valiente leading the way, formed the vanguard. The "bearers" followed
them with some of the lesser bravos and the smueeler himself bringing up the
rear. Generally speaking, polite usage required that certain amenities be
observed before hostilities were opened. One of the Patrol group was expected
to sing out Manos Arriba. Federales! — meaning, "Hands up. Federal
Officers!" At this challenge the smugglers had several avenues open to them.
They could follow instructions; drop everything and run; or fight; all according
to the mood of the moment, the tactical situation, and/or the quality of the
escort. On this particular occasion the surprise of the meeting was so complete
that someone impolitely fired a shot without waiting for the conventional
challenge and instantly the shooting became general. Most of the smugglers,
after dropping the contraband, got safely back across the river. Normally at
this point they would have been expected to shrug the whole thing off as one of
the vicissitudes of the business in which they were engaged and with true Latin
philosophy conclude that it hadn't been such a good idea for today to begin
with — so — maybe next week things would be better.
But this was different! Filled with indignation at what must have been
considered a complete failure to observe the proper amenities, as soon as their
own side of the river was reached, a hot fire was opened on the side they had
just departed. Of course, the Border Patrolmen were likewise outraged at this
open display of bad manners. And since it also appeared probable that some
violation of International Law was involved by this unwarranted aggression on
the part of their opponents — like possibly lack of proper respect for U. S.
territory — after due consideration, the fire was returned. Friends of the
combatants on the Mexican side heard the commotion and hastened to the aid
of their embattled compatriots. Likewise, all Border Patrolmen, and in fact
apparently everyone else within earshot, joined in and the battle became
general. So general that on this side of the river people that nobody knew were
coming up to the officers and borrowing ammunition!
Everybody was having a good time — it beat sitting and watching a dull
crossing where nothing was happening — and nobody was getting hurt to
amount to anything, so the battle raged all night until daylight brought its
reminders of responsibilities and the fight was mutually brought to a halt.
These responsibilities were quickly brought to the attention of the Senior
Border Patrol officer on the scene when he received "the word" that the
District Director wished to "confer" with him about the evening's activities.
He approached this interview with considerable misgiving, and rightly so, the
District Director being an irascible old gentleman by the name of Mr. Wil-
moth who was noted for eating Patrol officers without bothering to slick down
their ears; and who was further known to take the dimmest of views of such
carryings on as had occurred during the late evening's festivities — regrettably,
but undeniably, under the supervision of this aforementioned young Senior.
Upon entering the Director's "den" his worst fears were quickly realized.
He was met with a roar that blasted him back on his heels and which translated
into something like "I want an explanation as to why once that smuggling train
was back across the river you didn't take your men and get to work instead of
fooling around there enjoying yourselves all evening like you did?"
With admirable presence of mind under the circumstances the young officer
countered hopefully with, "Mr. Wilmoth, I wanted to leave there the worst
way! But the fire from the other side was so intense that we were hopelessly
pinned down. Why, it was all a man's life was worth just to lift his
head — much less try to leave!"
I think it best to pull the curtain at this point. You see, Mr. Wilmoth was
aware of the three details which had gone back to headquarters during the
night to bring up more ammunition!
Just last week my attention was rudely directed to how much thought can be
colored by a difference of viewpoint. In the foregoing account I have spoken
of Mr. Wilmoth, a man whom I admired very much, as "an irascible old
gentleman." Actually, I had no real idea of how old he was at the time. I
suppose I thought of him as being somewhere in his late nineties. Thinking
back I suspect that early fifties would have been about right. Be that as it may
be, my initiation into the other side of this youthful viewpoint came about
through a surprise inspection that I pulled on a group of Border Patrol
Trainees. These young men, who were undergoing their rigid one year's
training and probation, were reporting for shift duty and their presence idling
around the office suggested to my mind the probability that an inspection of
their sidearms would be good for their general development as officers.
Particularly if I found any of the weapons in need of attention.
To make a very thorough inspection short, those guns were all in beautiful
condition. Immaculate! However, having gone that far it would not have
argued well for constituted authority in general and my "face" in particular, if I
had found them so, officially. Nor would it have improved their future
attention to pertinent detail. Accordingly, under very close scrutiny into such
obscure spots as the narrow space between the top strap and the end of the
barrel, I was able to find a bit of lint here and a speck of dried grease
there. . . . After giving them about fifteen minutes of fatherly comments
on the virtue of industry and the importance of having their artillery in perfect
condition, I ended with, "Now you go get those guns CLEAN and don't ever
let me see them in such a deplorable condition again."
A short time later I had occasion to go by the small room where cleaning
equipment was kept. All were there industriously engaged in shining up the
already glistening hardware. As I came abreast of the door, one of the boys
whose back was toward me, held his revolver up, squinted judiciously into its
insides and voiced the following opinion: "Well, I'll tell you one thing. The
old — can SEE!"
As the curtain was pulled for me so many years before, so, mercifully, do I
drop it now!
Although the offenders along our borders are not quite such forthright
characters as they were a few years back, human nature has changed but little.
They have learned that discretion is the better part of valor, but criminals today
have one thing in common with their counterparts of the past. They still resent
being arrested and this resentment is the basis of an occasional violent episode
even today. These are fortunately few and far between and some of our
spirited young Border Patrol officers, never having experienced a gunfight, long
for the excitement and thrills the old timers tell such fascinating lies about. All
of which makes it the more memorable when these young fellows do get the
chance to play gun fighter, as happened a few months ago at El Paso. Possibly
you will remember reading about it in the papers. A man and his son decided
to hijack a jet plane. President Kennedy issued orders that the plane was not
to be allowed to leave under any circumstances. The Border Patrol was sent
out to keep it on the ground! There was broad newspaper and TV coverage
showing Border Patrol cars chasing that big airplane, shooting the tires, with an
occasional shot up through the wings and fuselage for good measure. That
was the answer to a pistol toter's dream, and one must admit those young
fellows did a good job of stopping the plane — Of course, credit should be given
where credit is due. They didn't do all this without help. There were agents of
the Federal Bureau of Investigation riding in those cars too. — How else can
those wild shots be explained?
And speaking of "wild shots" (or to use a better descriptive word, "acciden-
tal" shots), which an officer was sometimes faced with the necessity of explain-
ing, brings up the subject of "alibi guns." To the unitiated, a hypothetical case
would doubtless explain this piece of equipment more clearly than any other
method. Let us suppose that an officer is checking freight trains at night. He
receives urgent information that a man had just shot and killed two policemen
in the adjoining town and was believed to have caught and be riding the freight
our officer is about to check. The killer is described as "medium height and
weight, wearing a brown hat, khaki pants and shirt, believed to be heavily
armed and of course, obviously dangerous." As the train pulls into the yard
and stops, a man, answering that description in externals, steps from between
two box cars. Anticipating the possibility of trouble, our officer has his gun in
one hand and his flashlight in the other. Flashing the light on the suspect he
says, "I am an officer. Don't move!" Then, instead of obeying the order, the
suspect reaches for his hip pocket. What would YOU do? Well, so did our
hypothetical officer! But, supposing further, when he goes over to examine the
remains, he finds that it was all a mistake. This man wasn't armed. Instead,
he had a bad cold and had selected a particularly unfortunate time to decide he
needed a handkerchief to blow his nose. Although completely sincere in his
conviction that his life was in danger and despite the fact that HAD this been
the man the officer believed him to be, his wife would in all probability by now
be a widow if he had waited to see what came out of that hip pocket, our officer
is in a bad spot. That's where the alibi gun came in. It was a small,
inexpensive gun of the "Owl Head" or "Saturday Night Harrison" persuasion,
was fully loaded and would shoot, had no fingerprints on it and all in all was a
very comforting thing to have around for the "suspect" to hold until the
coroner got there! If this looks like an unethical action to you, it is suggested
that you go back and again put yourself in the officer's spot. Then do a little
honest soul searching before adopting a "holier than thou" attitude.
Well, alibi guns are no longer needed and are a thing of the past, so I am
told. But to get to the story this was all leading up to. Which had to do with
a young Border Patrol officer who early one evening had shot a notorious
smuggler when they met "mano a mano" in the middle of a bridge over a
large irrigation canal. The inquest was being held, late that same evening,
at the coroner's office. If this seems strange to you, perhaps some background
explanation is in order. The coroner was newly elected, and upon taking office
had proved extremely zealous in the performance of his duties. When informed
that his predecessor had made a practice of holding inquests into all deaths
of a violent nature in the safety of his office, he stated publicly that this was
a sorry way to do business, as was only to be expected of his late opponent.
However, while HE was in office all inquests would be held, as was proper, at
the scene of the violence. This new policy lasted only one day. Upon stepping
out on the bank of the Rio Grande to view a "scene" at close hand he had been
fired on by a .30-30 from the other bank. Whereupon righteous resolutions
went by the board. Which brings us back to the inquest in point — at the
In telling his story the Border Patrolman stated that he had halted the
smuggler on the bridge whereupon that worthy had immediately fired three
shots at him from a palmed pistol, but that his willingness to commit murder so
far exceeded his skill that he missed with all three shots. The officer, recover-
ing from his surprise, finally got off one shot which proved adequate, ending
the affray and the career of the subject of the inquest. At this stage it was
pointed out that no gun had been found on or near the deceased. By way of
explanation the officer said, "Well, when I shot him, his gun flew out of his
hand, hit on the bridge and bounced off into the canal." It was decided to
recess until morning and then drag for the missing weapon.
Now, I knew this young man well, and I knew that he would not he. Not to
me, anyway, and he had told me exactly the same story that he had told the
coroner. If he said the smuggler had shot at him three times before he returned
the fire, I knew that this was true. However, I also knew that the canal over
which the fight had taken place was very large and that a pistol was a pro-
portionately small and hard to find object. Thinking of the implications I found
that I could not get to sleep. Finally, I gave up trying and slipping a small
revolver remarkably similar to the one described as a typical alibi gun into my
shirt pocket, I drove out to the scene of the affray and leaned over the bridge
railing trying to estimate where the lost gun would most likely be located. As
I gazed down at the moonlit water I saw and heard a splash which prompted
me to feel hastily at the shirt pocket where I had been carrying my gun. My
concern was justified. It had fallen out into the water below.
I can only give a second hand report of the wrap up of the case since I
somehow felt that it would be better if I took up some just remembered but
urgent business instead of attending in person. At the continuation the
following morning with the entire cast assembled at the bridge, a large,
powerful magnet which had been acquired for the occasion was lowered into
the water. As it was moved slowly back and forth across the bottom, tension
began to build. Finally, just before the suspense became unbearable, it was
pulled up and lowered to the bridge planking for inspection. There was a great
sigh of relief, for there, firmly held to the magnet, was a gun. The case was
immediately dismissed with the judgment that the officer had fired in self
defense. In fact, one of the jurymen later told me privately and in strict
confidence that it was the worst case of justifiable homicide he had ever
seen ... for in addition to the previously mentioned gun, there had been
five more picked up by the magnet — all positively identified as having belonged
to the deceased — and each with three shots fired!
Well, the book is thickened and I'll write no more; not even to please the
publisher! You see, as I dug into memory for these stories it occurred to me
that wordiness could be as expensive as brevity. Who knows? Someday I may
want to write another book!
Fightin 7 Leather
MANY INTERESTING methods for "toting" pistols have been devised by
gentlemen not hampered by regulations or orthodox thinking, but motivated
simply with an earnest desire to survive by getting the edge on outstanding
local competition. Included in the most novel of these are John Wesley
Hardin's famous gun vest; half-breed holsters which turned on a swivel,
allowing the gun to be tilted up, without drawing, and fired through the open
end of the holster; and among the most ingenious, simply a string running
under the coat from the left hand, up the sleeve, across the shoulders and down
the right sleeve to where a gun was concealed just within the cuff. Either by
turning loose the string with the left hand or hunching the shoulders, the gun
was dropped into the right palm ready for action. Our more modern designers
have not been outdone by the old timers in outlandish inventions, as witness
the Clam Shell and holsters designed to be worn in such intimate locations as to
be available only by unzipping the trousers.
If these screwball innovations are given the consideration they merit and
ignored, holsters can best be classified by the carrying position and fall into
three types. These are: cross draw, hip draw, and shoulder holster.
The shoulder holster we can, to a large degree, omit from this discussion.
Its greatest value is for plain clothes use and for carrying large, sometimes
scope-sighted, guns on hunting trips. I have never found one which I could
wear with comfort. It has another disadvantage: crossing the target — which
will be discussed under the cross draws.
Uniformed police, almost without exception, carry their weapons in either
cross draw holsters or hip holsters. The cross draw is a comfortable holster,
very fast under ideal conditions but lacking the mobility of the draw from the
right hip. Its greatest disadvantage is a natural result of its position. When
drawn it is usually swinging across the target and must be stopped or fired
within a narrow limitation for a hit — as opposed to a hip draw where the gun is
swung up through the target and has about six feet in which it may be fired
successfully. The cross draw position has been extolled as ideal for the officer
who, alone, is conveying a prisoner or prisoners in an unsecured automobile.
This is a dangerous practice but sometimes necessary. Needless to say, under
iiiY .l*- ; '"'CSW^Hi *v : : tHUm ****** j
Jesse Thompson belt clip rig. You
can't get much more elemental — or
faster. Stud welded to gun frame
fits in metal slot on belt. Allows gun
to be tilted up and fired without
"drawing" for all out close range
speed or shoved forward out of slot
where less speed but more accuracy
is desirable. Demonstrated by El-
The cross draw holster is an in-
vitation to disaster. Its position
is even more convenient to an
opponent than to the wearer.
Front view of the Berns-Martin holster. The southpaw wearing it is Col. Charles
Askins, of whom Harlon Carter once remarked, "Carlos used to be real clever with
no conditions should a prisoner be permitted in the back seat where the officer
would be defenseless. From a position of the prisoner in the front seat
alongside the officer the weapon would be in the worst possible position if worn
on the right hip; however, on the left hip for a cross draw would also be far
from ideal. Only slight pressure on the officer's right elbow by the prisoner
would prevent the gun being drawn with that hand, or used if it could be
reached. The logical place to carry a gun under the circumstances described is
not in a holster. Thrust into the right front of the belt for a left-handed cross
draw, the right elbow can be used to fight the assailant off while the left hand
draws the gun and restores order to the front seat.
More and more departments have adopted the right hip position as stand-
ard. It is now overwhelmingly the most used gun carrying position for obvious
reasons. For one, it looks more natural and consequently unobtrusive, an
effect to be desired. Under surprise conditions and awkward body or hand
positions, the draw from the right hip is least complicated and least likely to put
the officer at a disadvantage. It is in a position where it can be readily
protected by the strongest and most dexterous hand; and, as previously men-
tioned, the gun, when drawn, will usually come up through the long axis of the
target, allowing more leeway for error and a surer hit.
Since the right hip carry is the most popular and most desirable position,
some discussion of equipment available and how it should be worn is in order.
The plain, open top style, in most general use, is generally conceded to be the
most practical and efficient holster available and is the holster of which this
chapter is most descriptive. In addition to it, two other holsters designed to be
worn on the right hip are in some usage. One of these, a type in which the
weapon is held in place by flat springs and is drawn by shoving it forward
through the slitted front of the holster, is known as the Berns-Martin model.
This holster has attained considerable well-merited popularity. Its strongest
point is the security with which the weapon is carried. Due to the holster's
construction the gun could not be taken from behind by an assailant and could
only be pulled out through the front of the holster. It is at its best in locations
where the officer must work in thick crowds. It is my opinion that its greatest
drawbacks are that it does not expose enough of the gun butt or any of the
trigger guard; it offers resistance in drawing followed by complete lack of
resistance as the weapon is freed from the retaining springs, making control
and alignment difficult; and last, possibly a minor point but one which has
affected its popularity adversely, it is homely. Although not as fast and not
'Clamshell" holster, closed position.
allowing as positive control as the open type, this is a rugged, reliable holster
which will give good service.
The second of the holsters mentioned above is the Clam Shell, of which
perhaps the less said the better. It is operated by sticking a forefinger in the
trigger guard and punching a concealed spring catch which causes the two sides
of the holster to spring apart, usually leaving the gun in the user's hand. At
one time this holster had a safety factor worth considering as the weapon
cannot be drawn unless the location of the hidden spring is known. This
advantage has been lost since hardly a criminal — or, as has been mischievously
demonstrated — even a juvenile, today but knows the "secret" of where to poke
a finger. Of course the serious faults of this holster are : the catches have been
known to jam so that the officer was unable to get his gun out; they have sprung
open "unpoked" allowing the gun to fall out on the ground; and they are even
uglier than the Berns-Martin! Possibly the clearest commentary that can be
The "Clamshell" holster in open position. Halves fly apart when covered spring
just forward of trigger in trigger guard is punched.
given is that use of the Clamshell holster, along with use of a cross draw or
shoulder holster, is barred by the rules of the National Police Combat Matches,
since all are considered dangerous.
As a first premise, we must conclude that any holster must be a compromise
between speed and security. You can so secure the weapon that no one could
remove it from the holster, not even the owner! On the other hand, a holster
could be designed with only speed in mind to an extent that the gun falls out at
the slightest movement. A happy medium between these two should be
attained. A good safety strap, designed to fit either snapped over the hammer
for security or snapped out of the way on the back of the holster when speed
seems more important, can go far toward bridging the gap between these two
extremes. It is my opinion that the full potential of this strap is not utilized in
common practice. Most officers normally carry the weapon with the strap over
the hammer, removing it only when they feel that quick action might be
Safety strap should be designed to fit perfectly in either of three positions: Left,
behind hammer or rear sight, giving complete security in the event strenuous action
is necessary; Center, cleared for action. Capable of being snapped completely out
of the way at back of holster; Right, snapped around front to allow easy access to
gun and still "show off" a little polished brass.
imminent. This process should be reversed, and the gun snapped in only if
strenuous action — running, crawling, climbing a boxcar, etc., — is antici-
pated. In such cases there will always be time to secure the gun, whereas there
might not be time for wn-snapping if it was needed in a hurry. There is no way
to draw a gun secured by a safety strap without running a risk of winding up
with your fingers full of strap. Springs in the strap won't help if it is attached to
the holster. It will still be a hazard. Spring models which allow the strap to
"fly away" are also impractical for a working rig. They can become entangled
with the fingers — and replacements are expensive. You would surely lose a lot
of them at night. There is only one place for that strap: snapped completely
out of the way on the back of the holster. One other argument against
unsnapping for an emergency: Suppose you start walking toward a car you
have stopped, unsnapping the safety strap as you go, and it turns out that the
occupant is a prominent taxpayer? He is not going to like that "threatening"
gesture and will probably register a complaint with your department, his
congressman, and the local press.
Here then are the things that a holster should do: It should hold the gun
securely yet allow the maximum speed attainable within the limits of comfort,
safety, and security. To do this it must be designed to hold the gun in a
perpendicular position and, viewed from the front, with the butt straight fore
and aft, slanting neither in nor out; the whole weapon pointing straight at the
ground with little or no deviation from the vertical. From a side view there
should be a definite forward slant. This forward slant is for comfort only, to
clear the gun butt and the toe of the holster from contact with the back of the
seat when riding in a car. A great deal of mystery has been made of this
"exact" tilt the holster should have. Exhaustive tests have shown there is no
significant difference in speed, under realistic conditions, whether the holster
be tilted forward or backward or hung straight up and down. There is a
significant difference in comfort if you ride all day with your weapon being
pushed forward by the car cushion. By the same token the drop should be just
enough that the holster bottom is not pushed up by the seat. The amount of
drop should be regulated by the length of "rise" of the individual officer.
There has been much argument, written and oral, on this subject. As a
practical matter it deserves no mention, since a low slung holster would look
ridiculous on a law enforcement officer, he would be impeded in physical
action, and could only be comfortable standing without motion. Accordingly,
the only discussion which could be considered seriously justifiable would
concern the purely academic question of whether a high or low holster position
was best for sheer speed of draw. In various articles on the subject I have been
cited as an example by authors advocating the high position. One such which
comes to mind posed the question, "Why does Jordan use the high position?"
and then went on to explain in some detail my reason. Actually, the reasons he
gave were good. He pointed out the obvious advantages to an officer listed
above and added that with the hand close to the weapon it would not have
picked up much speed when contact was made with the gun; at which point it
would be further slowed down by the weight of the weapon. Further away, as
would be the case if the gun was worn higher, the hand would be traveling
faster when the gun was encountered, plus the advantage of rocking the gun out
already in shooting position instead of having to lift it into line from a low hung
position. As a matter of fact, although I concur with all this reasoning, I would
have given a much simpler reason for wearing my gun as I do had I been
consulted before the article was written. I wear it there because Border Patrol
regulations specify this position! And having become accustomed to feeling the
comforting weight of a sixshooter in that same spot for many years I would be
uneasy about trying to wear it somewhere else. It's like the stiff brim campaign
Five different angles of tilt, backward and forward, from the straight drop holster in
center. No appreciable difference in speed could be detected after practice with each.
hats we wear as part of the dress uniform. If you get one that doesn't fit
properly, that's bad, because it will never change; however, if you keep wearing
it, in time your head will conform somewhat to the shape of the hat! The same
is true of your gun. Regardless of where you wear it, pick one spot and stick
with it until your hand will go to that spot instinctively.
The little experimenting I have done in this respect has been inconclusive.
This is possibly because I have never used the low position enough to become
accustomed to it. I have had a theory that a low position was a prob-
able advantage for speed with a single action. This theory was borne out
for a while in that winners of the single action fast draw matches for a long
time wore such rigs; however, this has been completely reversed of recent
years. High holsters, featuring excessive back slants and contoured to allow
the gun to be drawn "sideways," have broken all past records and are used
almost exclusively by the high scoring fast draw competitors today.
Naturally, the holster should be so fashioned as to give easy access to the
butt and trigger at the same time it protects the weapon and its sights. Once
again a compromise. In this respect, the best description I can give of the
desired effect is, "when you reach you just get a handful of gun."
Correct angle of tilt for officers
holster clears butt of gun and toe
of holster from back of car seat.
Drop is correct if bottom of holster
barely fails to touch seat.
In order to get out of a holster what was designed into it, a properly fitting
belt, properly worn, is a must. The best holster design is worthless if worn on a
belt that is too narrow for the holster loop or too soft to hold the holster in the
position it was designed to assume. The belt should fit the holster loop tightly,
be of good quality leather, firm, and worn snugly buckled straight across the
body with no looseness or "cowboy slant." Such a slant gives a dashing,
swashbuckling appearance which is only impressive to the inexperienced. It is
the hallmark of the rookie cop. How many times have you noticed how much
a part of the man is the gun on an experienced officer — or how often the rookie
looks like a gun with man attached! Of course the reason, other than appear-
Pants belt slipped through loop of holster to anchor it more solidly and prevent
change of position.
ance, that the belt should not be loosely slanted is that if the gun hangs even
slightly, gun, holster, belt and all ride up and you've got a "handful of
everything." None of which you can use for defense until the gun is separated
from the rest of the confusion. If this should happen in a gunfight, your
embarrassment would be short-lived!
The belt should not only be buckled snugly directly over the trouser belt,
but a good trick is to also slip the trouser belt through the holster loop and
cinch it down firmly before fastening the gun belt. This is made even more
effective if you can get your wife to remove the trouser belt loops on the right
side and reposition them so as to have one directly in front and one directly
behind the holster when it is positioned to suit you. When the trouser belt is
threaded under these loops and through the holster loop, no up or down
movement of the gun belt or sliding of the holster is possible.
A desirable design feature is an enclosed strip of metal running from about
Holster on right has plain belt loop with
metal extending to top of loop. One
on left is "snap off" model with metal
stopping at bottom of belt loop. Each
has its advantages. For general "field"
use the solid loop model is best. Hol-
sters illustrated here and most of those
shown in book were manufactured by
Hume Leathergoods and by Herretts.
the middle of the back of the holster, through the shank, to the top of the belt
loop. The metal should be slightly curved to fit the contour of the body and
the cylinder of the revolver. This type should always be used, without a snap-
off feature of the belt loop when a river belt or Sam Browne belt without
shoulder strap or dees is uniform. With this construction, if the belt is snugly
buckled, the gun and holster rides smoothly without movement or flapping,
regardless of the violent action that might be required. It becomes literally
part of the man, following his every movement.
For use where the Sam Browne, with dees, is uniform and the officer's duty
is such that he is required to wear the belt without sidearm much of the time
each day, a "snap-on" type is more convenient. There are disadvantages to this
type holster. The metal can only be brought to the bottom of the belt loop,
allowing the holster to "work" at this point, eventually wearing and becoming
floppy. The second disadvantage, of course, is that snaps do not always stay
snapped. If they should come loose from a motorcycle officer's belt while he
was traveling at high speed, some marring of gun and holster could be
expected. The type with solid loop and metal extending to top should be
chosen by officers on field duty.
As previously mentioned, the length of this reinforced shank should be
predicated on the build of the man. The officer of short stature who desires that
Officer with short "rise"
who wishes to use hol-
ster with longer drop is
compelled to go to
swivel holster or be
should be locked except
when officer is seated.
his gun be positioned lower is faced with two alternatives: be uncomfortable,
or wear a swivel holster. If the latter is his choice, the drop should not be
extreme; the swivel should be a type which can be positively locked in position;
and should otherwise contain all the features mentioned above.
Holsters for plain clothes wear have the added requirement that they carry
the gun inconspicuously. A shoulder holster fulfills this requirement, but is
Above: Five good plain clothes holsters. All essentially the same type
designed for wear on right hip. The holster in middle of bottom row has
double belt loops which allow it to be worn on right hip or as cross draw.
Below: The "Legace" holster for carrying a hideout gun strapped to the
uncomfortable and subjects the gun to heavy doses of perspiration in a warm
climate. Either a holster designed to make the gun ride behind the right hip or
the cross draw type is most efficient, comfortable and practical in my opinion.
It should ride high, and for the hip carry, directly over the right hip pocket. In
fact, I shove the end of the holster into the pocket. This serves to anchor it and
affords extra concealment if the coat tail should lift slightly for some reason.
In this "far back" position some speed is sacrificed for better concealment.
The cross draw position, with the gun worn well in front on the left side, offers
good concealment and is probably the fastest position from which it can be
drawn from under a coat. However, the objections offered elsewhere in this
treatment concerning accuracy and the danger inherent in this method of
carrying a gun apply.
This book has been written in the hope that things learned through trial and
error over a long period of time might be of value to brother officers of lesser
experience and not as a vehicle to advertise any product. Most of the
comments contained herein are a voicing of my personal opinion, based on
this experience. Others, and all of the requirements of equipment listed, have
met the test of usage by myself and other veteran peace officers of the
Southwest at a time and place where the best in equipment was considered a
prime essential of survival. It would be strange indeed if the features of
equipment, which I have listed as desirable, did not coincide closely with the
features of belts and holsters of my design; since these designs are based on the
thought, trial, and experience mentioned above. While making no claim that I
have the only answer, I have no doubt as to the soundness of these designs and
feel no hesitation in recommending them. "They'll do to ride the river
Care and Fitting of Holster
THE BEST that can be bought can never be too good for the officer whose life
may depend on the quality of his equipment. Design must be based on thought
and trial, and the material and workmanship must be the best obtainable. It is
the responsibility of every officer to himself, his family, his brother officers, and
the public to see that this is true. But the responsibility does not end here.
The finest examples of the leatherworkers' art can be ruined in short order by
misuse, carelessness or misinformation.
A new holster, properly made, is always slightly undersized. This is because
although cured leather can easily be stretched to a custom fit, it can be shrunk
very little. Unless it has been preblocked by the maker, which can usually be
ascertained by reading his literature or a visual examination of the holster, the
gun should not be forced home until the leather has been softened by soaking.
To do so will mar the leather and a perfect fit will never be attained.
If your holster is not preblocked, here's the way to go about it: throw it in
the horse trough, or some other vessel of water, and let it soak for about two
hours, until the leather feels soft. This will not harm the holster in any way.
Shake off the excess water and wipe dry. Carefully insert revolver, which has
been lightly oiled all over, inside and out. Be sure that the barrel centers the
holster. This you can tell by noting that the ring left by the end of the barrel on
the leather plug closing bottom of holster is centered. Work the leather with
your fingers until it perfectly matches the contours of the gun. At this point
the gun should be removed, wiped thoroughly dry, and re-oiled. Now put it
back in the holster and let it dry overnight. A good trick at this stage is to line
the holster with a small piece of the thin plastic bag cleaning companies use to
protect clothing. If you do this, be sure that it is not bunched, which might
spoil the contours of the holster. The next morning remove the gun (and
plastic if used), clean it again to be safe, and lay the holster up to dry for at
least two additional days.
Rubbing alcohol can be substituted for water in the above process. Slightly
more costly, it is less likely to cause rusting if you were careless about oiling
your gun. (No Junior, you pour the alcohol in the holster — don't try to put
the holster in the bottle. Besides, I said rubbing alcohol.)
These pictures show proper positioning of gun: squarely on hip with butt straight
"fore and aft" and gun perpendicular to ground with no lean or twist.
Picture on left shows front view of proper holster position. Picture on right is all
wrong. Too much bend of metal insert causing butt to protrude. Will hang on draw
and interferes with arm movement in walking.
A wide, heavy gun belt can be made to conform more quickly to your body
by similar treatment. After soaking thoroughly, wear it tightly cinched, with-
out gun, until it dries.
After blocking your holster as described above, you are ready to adjust it for
proper hang. Buckle on the rig and stand at a position approximating "atten-
tion" in front of a large mirror. Move the position of the holster on the belt
until it is in a location which feels right to you but is, within close bounds,
squarely on the right hip.
Now look at your gun in the mirror. Its axis should form a straight line
perpendicular to the floor. This can be corrected, if necessary, by bending the
shank slightly. At this point it is well to remember that the steel shank is for
the following purposes: to hold the holster stiff and lessen chance of gun
hanging on the draw; to conform to the hip for comfort; and to allow adjust-
ment of the gun position. Don't overdo the bending. The gun should form a
straight line, not lean away from the body. If the shank is bent enough to
follow the curve of the hip it should give ample clearance between gun butt and
The other dimension to be checked is the direction in which the butt is
pointing. This should be straight "fore and aft," slanting neither in nor out.
This effect is easily attained by twisting the shank until the desired position
After these adjustments you will find that the gun, although snugly held, can
be easily lifted straight out with two fingers with no binding effect and that the
gun butt does not interfere with the normal swing of the arm in walking.
One last comment on the "water treatment." In time, the leather, regardless
of the quality, will soften from usage. This can be remedied temporarily by
soaking and allowing to dry without the gun. Some shrinkage occurs and the
leather will be hardened in this process. Naturally, it will not hold its hardness
as it did when new.
I have seen holster wells treated with a neats foot oil and graphite solution,
and also with dry graphite. While this will no doubt result in a slick inside
surface, it also results in a slick black coat on gun and hands where its value is
even more questionable. Actually, I believe that this "improvement" would be
more imaginary than real.
Our western writers love to describe the "well oiled holster" of the hero.
This treatment may well be left to the pages of fiction. Oil will not only soften
leather, but it will cause it to stretch just as water does. An oiled surface is also
slightly "tacky" and some hanging of the gun will probably result. Wax shoe
Poised, masterful, ready! Here we see
the "Cowboy Slant" at its best. Puts
holster in perfect position for leaning on
Result: A handful/ of everything!
polish may be applied, both for the appearance and the preservation of your
Next to the application of oil as a spoiler of good leather comes the practice
of "leaning" on the gun. This is an attitude, assumed mostly by younger
officers, in which the entire weight of the upper body is supported by the right
hand or forearm pushing down on the holstered gun. Actually, since the
holster is attached to the belt, which in turn is strapped around the waist, this
apparent support of the torso is more fancied than real, which can be readily
proved by attempting to raise both legs. You will find that they are still
supporting all of your weight, and that the only effect of the "gun leaning" is to
make a bad impression on the public and stretch your holster out of shape.
With proper care a good gun rig should last for many years of hard service.
Buying leather which is "just as good" with price as the criterion is poor
economy. Getting the best will save you money, and maybe your life.
THE COMPETITIVE target shooter knows well that properly designed and
fitted grips will add points to his score. He lavishes time, thought and money
on the selection and manufacture of his gun "handles," sometimes going to the
extreme of building up monstrosities with plastic wood and electricians tape,
either to be used "as is" or copied by a custom stock maker. That he would be
better served by using time tested standard patterns, expertly custom fitted to
his hand dimensions and formation, is beside the point. The fact that he
believes that he has solved his grip problem is of undoubted value to his well
being and might even result in improved shooting.
There is a lesson to be learned from this. A target pistol is fired by placing
the weapon firmly within the shooting hand, grasping it in the approved
manner, and, having first given due consideration to the niceties of foot
position, breath control, and the eye or eyes to be used in aiming, carefully
aligning the sights and even more carefully squeezing off a single action trigger
with a two to three pound pull. All this to fire a .22 rimfire or larger caliber
with reduced loads at a clearly defined bull's-eye. If custom grips are
beneficial under the above conditions, consider their value to the combat
shooter. Instead of the attention to detail and fine deliberation of the target
shooter, he must move his hand at great speed to the gun butt — regardless of
the awkward hand and body positions in which he might have been caught
when the signal to go into action was received. Grasping the grip at whatever
point his hand chances to contact it he completes his draw, points the weapon
at the target and triggers a 15 pound or greater double action pull to fire his
shot, aiming by the feel of the gun in his hand only. All these actions must be
completed so rapidly as to leave little opportunity to make adjustments of
Obviously, properly designed grips which fit the individual hand perfectly
are much more important in firing heavy recoil weapons by feel than in the
shooting of light recoil weapons under the conditions of target competition.
Yet, although much thought and experimenting has gone into the making of
excellent grips for target work, most of the grips offered for "combat" appear
to have had little or no serious thought given to the problems involved. They
Extreme contrast in specialization. Both grips pictured are manufactured by Her-
retts Stocks and both are excellent designs, each to do a specific job. Above is
International Slow Fire singleshot pistol by Hammerli with form fitted grips. Below
is S&W Magnum with Jordan Trooper combat grips.
follow traditional designs and apparently the "designers" are more concerned
with how these grips look than with whether they absorb or distribute recoil
comfortably and assist in instinctive gun pointing.
To spare the guilty custom stock makers and pick on the large gun compa-
nies who are in a position to better withstand criticism, the "target" model
stocks put out by S&W and Colt are typical of the design errors most commonly
made. Unfortunately, most "custom combat" stocks are patterned after these
commercial models; any improvements being mainly a matter of choice woods,
better finish and fancy checkering.
The main design features of these grips are few and obvious: first, more
wood than in standard grips; second, a built-in "filler" between grip frame and
trigger guard allowing the weight of the gun to rest on the second instead of the
trigger finger; third, a pronounced bulge at the top of the grip strap intended to
keep the recoil of the weapon from forcing it to slip down through the hand;
and fourth, a general taper from top to bottom ending in a pronounced flair at
the bottom of the grips seemingly designed to help the recoil to force the gun to
slip down through the hand. If there is any other purpose, it is not apparent.
One last feature, probably added with the thought that it would afford a firm
grip and dress up the whole affair, is the checkering.
Taking these items one by one and analyzing them is not encouraging.
Although there is more wood than is found in the skimpy standard grips, little
thought appears to have been given to whether the contour of this wood fitted
anybody's hand. In the interest of flexibility both sides of the grips are the
same, thereby fitting neither a right handed or left handed person, although
making it possible for either to hold the weapon without too much danger of
The filler is a good idea; however, it is generally constructed with a rounded
surface, giving a minimum bearing on the second finger. This fairly well
destroys the effectiveness of this feature, bruising the finger on the rounded
ridge and on the trigger guard if heavy recoil loads are fired. The support
offered is negligible.
In the matter of the bulge at the top of the grip strap, this is built into the
metal in both the S&W and the Colt. Grips produced by these companies
follow the line of the metal, allowing the bulge to protrude. In most custom
grips where the backstrap is covered, this bulge is reproduced and even
accentuated in wood. It is true that the barrel of a handgun flips up in recoil,
causing a down thrust at the rear and tending to force the grips down through
the hand; and it is true that an extension directly above the web between the
Contrast shown from two angles. Factory grips on left and right, combat style custom
grips in center. Note the wide bearing surface of filler on the custom grips as com-
pared to the narrow, rounded surface of the commercial "target" grips.
thumb and forefinger acts as a brake and tends to keep the gun from moving
down. Unfortunately, it is also true that this is accomplished by directing most
of the recoil to the weakest part of the hand and slamming an unyielding metal
or wood projection down against the tenderest and weakest part of the
Smith & Wesson target grips (top) and Colt target grips (bottom) showing bulge built
into metal at top of grip strap and flared bottom of grips as contrasted to custom
grips designed for double action shooting with heavy recoil weapons.
The graceful flare at the bottom of the grips has already been commented
on. It appears to have been added only for looks and to counteract all the
other features intended to prevent the gun from shifting in the hand, since it
practically forces a downward movement from recoil.
Many years ago, dissatisfied with the grips available, I took my dissatis-
faction and my thoughts on the subject to an old friend, Walter Roper. Mr.
Roper was, to the best of my knowledge, the first man to make a thorough
study of the subject of handgun grips. Of an inquiring mind, he was willing to
investigate any idea which appeared to have merit. Once started on a project
he attacked it with patience and ingenuity, never stopping until he had tested
every avenue he could conceive. Books he authored are still considered texts
on the subject of handguns and their accessories. Walter made a pair of grips
to my specifications, subsequently making a number of modifications to this
original model until both he and I were satisfied that the desired features were
built in. These features were basically as follows: a wide, contoured filler
which allowed the weight of the gun to rest comfortably on the second finger
and further took over the job of preventing a downward movement of the gun
in the hand; a rounded contour instead of the flared butt mentioned above; and
the backline of the grip forming a nearly perfect arc, dropping away toward the
top and covering the bulge of the frame. These grips allowed the gun to be
controlled and pointed accurately, even when a too hastily taken grip left the
hand too high or too low and it moved the recoil into the palm of the hand
where it belongs and can be best absorbed, instead of in the web of the
hand, which is the weakest and tenderest point. These grips were made by
Roper until his death, then by the late Lew Sanderson, and are now custom
made by Herretts' stocks as their Jordan Trooper Model.
A feature of these stocks not previously mentioned is that they are custo-
marily made without checkering. The uncheckered model, in my opinion, is
more comfortable in firing weapons such as the .357 and .44 Magnums; and in
drawing, it's smooth surface permits a last instant grip adjustment by trained
fingers, which would be more difficult if the grips were rough with checker-
Although again it might appear that the above constitutes a commercial,
such is not my intention. When I first took my ideas to Mr. Roper and had
them translated into wood, it was done for my own benefit and with no thought
that others might be interested. It would be difficult to put these ideas on
paper without describing the stocks which resulted from them. Their being
manufactured commercially followed a demand for these stocks by others,
instead of the usual promotion where the product is offered and a demand built
through advertising. Since they were not designed commercially it is some-
times not possible for a person with a very small hand to be satisfactorily fitted
with these grips for the .44 and .45 frame guns. This is regrettable, but no
attempt has been, or will be, made to alter the design where desirable features
would be sacrificed to increase sales.
THIS CHAPTER, while written expressly for the modern enforcement officer,
may be of more than passing interest to the civilian. Fast gun handling can be
a fascinating game as well as the grim difference between living and going down
which it so often means to the lawman. Precision shooting has its own
particular rewards, but no shooter, Master rating notwithstanding, should
consider himself such on the sole basis of the deliberate single action shooting
of present day match competition. Until he can draw and get his hit in times
shading one half second, he should not presume that he has mastered the
handgun. Nor should he assume that he is deriving all the pleasure inherent in
the game of pistol shooting. There is much that he is missing.
But to return to the enforcement officer. Here the "game" element is strictly
secondary. It seems beyond understanding that any peace officer could be
blind to the necessity of attaining the maximum efficiency possible to him with
the one tool of his trade. True, the day when the town Marshal had to shoot it
out with every reputation hunting gunslinger who entered his "kingdom" is
largely a thing of the past. But, make no mistake about it, that handgun jutting
out so jauntily from his hip is not there as an ornament designed to give him a
swashbuckling air. If he has to use it he will be playing for keeps — and on his
skill will depend the lives of himself and others. There are no excuses for lack
of dexterity. With only one tool to master, failure to develop efficiency with
that tool to the fullest can be attributed only to lack of sincerity, laziness or
stupidity. Those are hard words, but by any logic, justified.
There has been a great deal of foolishness written about fast gun work.
Tales of the old time gunmen, in particular, have been exaggerated to the point
of being completely ridiculous to a logical person. Nor has the modern fast
draw been slighted in this respect. For some unexplained reason, it is a subject
that tends to make unmitigated liars out of normally honest men. I have heard
usually veracious persons, in my presence, unashamedly announce to all
listeners that they had witnessed my dropping a coin, drawing, and hitting it
TWICE before it hit the ground. In a case of this kind there is little that the
subject can do except assume a modest expression and keep his mouth shut.
If, after your well meaning booster has stated that he SAW this phenomenon
Fast draw timer. Target is cut out "K" zone of
Colt Silhouette mounted on plywood backing
and must be hit to stop timer. Variable time
switch in control box actuates clock and lights
"eyes" as signal to draw. An invaluable train-
ing aid as it teaches individual his own "pla-
teau"; i.e., speed at which he can get a
sure hit without slowing unnecessarily. Author
has been timed on above equipment and on
Ross "Robot Dueller" at witnessed 27/100 of
second. (Reflex time and hit. Using wax bul-
lets at ten feet.) Hit time in photograph
This series runs straight across to opposite page and back. Note arcing motion of
hand and that all motion is of hand and arm only. Body naturally erect with no
stoop or squat. None of pictures in this book illustrating draw are "posed" they
are all from sequences of draws at full speed.
with his own eyes, you should point out the physical impossibility of such a
stunt (when your bullet hits the coin, it's gone! ) you have gained nothing but an
enemy who will hate you to his dying day, and probably swear from that time
on that you are a phony who couldn't hit the proverbial bull with any kind of
fiddle. Hitting a coin once is pretty fast and pretty accurate shooting, but it's
just not good enough in describing a fast draw. For years, writers have
described a draw of such flashing speed that the hand disappeared, or at best,
was a blur too fast for the eye to follow. This belongs properly in the realm of
legerdemain. The only way the human hand can move so as not to be seen is
through misdirection of the attention of the viewer. Even if you swing your
hand in an arc before your eyes, without giving it any of the tasks required of it
in drawing and firing a gun, your eye can follow it all the way.
This confused reporting on the part of spectators, coupled with over-
stimulated imaginations and the leavening effect of the passage of time, has
caused a veil of mystery to be drawn around the fast draw, thus concealing its
factual identity. The really fast men have been made to appear superhuman
and their feats impossible of emulation by the average person. Discouraged by
this false standard, very few make more than a half-hearted and shortlived
attempt to learn to draw. Instead of starting with fundamentals and gradually
conditioning their reflexes to the muscle-memory patterns which must be
developed before speed can be attained, the usual practice is to immediately try
to make the fastest draw possible. This invariably results in a bruised hand
and a chastened spirit, and, mentally comparing his blundering attempts to the
mythical perfection of the old gun fighters, one more would-be fast draw artist
resigns himself to the impossibility of his attaining such a goal.
The point I am trying to make is this: Any man with normal reflexes and
coordination can master fast draw double action shooting. But first he must
make a drastic downgrading of his pre-conceived notions of what is humanly
possible of accomplishment, lest he lose heart before he starts. There are only
two factors upon which the speed of a draw is dependent: the physical make-up
of the individual and the economy of motion which can be achieved. We will
go into the mechanics, that is, the economy of motion required, later, but first
let us take up the item of physical make-up.
It would be as ridiculous to claim that any person can become fast enough to
make draws in the one fifth to two fifth second bracket of the top men as it
would be to state categorically that any man can learn to run the mile in four
minutes. Similar factors govern both tests. All of us do not possess the lightning
reflexes and muscular coordination of the champions. But do not forget, that,
just as these four-minute milers finish only a short distance ahead of the "also-
ran's" in comparison to the total distance covered, so also do the fastest men on
the draw have only a slight edge on the average trained man in this field. In
fact, in fast draw work, the times involved are so infinitesimal that it is often
impossible to differentiate visually between a record draw and one that took
nearly twice as long. And the difference is so slight that the average man can
develop his ability to the point where the only factor in determining the winner
of a gun fight between himself and the fastest gunman who ever lived (psy-
chology not being taken into consideration) would probably be simply who
started for his gun first. Don't believe it? Then, figure it out for yourself. The
mechanical limit for ANY human to draw and hit a target representing the vital
area of a man's body, under realistic conditions, is from two to four tenth
seconds. I make this statement with confidence, despite recently reported
times less than two tenths in which blanks were fired actuating a timer by
concussion. Such records I consider without meaning since no accuracy was
involved. The history of gun fighting fails to record a single fatality resulting
from a quick noise. Below two tenths the vanishing point of NO elapsed time
is practically reached. It is doubtful that any of the old timers ever attained a
speed of three tenths second. That figure and below is possible only to modern
guns and holsters and then only if the signal to draw originates with the man
making the draw, that is, the timing begins when his hand starts to move. If
time is started with an external signal it will take that same man from about
three tenths to one full second or over to draw, depending on the degree of
surprise involved, with the average time running six tenths or above. Now,
suppose you can draw and fire in six tenths of a second — comparatively slow
time and well within your capabilities — and he STARTED to draw when he
saw your hand move?
If by now your interest and ambition is aroused, let's go into details on how
you are going to reach that six tenths second speed.
It is assumed that you are well grounded in the fundamentals of slow fire,
single action revolver shooting. If you are not, fast draw double action
shooting is still in the future for you. It is in the nature of post-graduate work
for well grounded shooters. So — if you can't shoot consistent tens on a
regulation target — file this away for future reference until you have mastered
those fundamentals. You can't expect to run until you have learned to
The mechanics involved in getting a handgun into action in the fastest
possible time are simply that the fewest and shortest movements be used, and
Draw sequence from different angle. Note
that the arcing motion is apparent. Also
that shoulder drops slightly back so that
weapon may be leveled and fired without
strain in shortest possible motion. In all
illustrations draw started from hand high
position to accentuate illustration of arc.
Draw from under coat without side sway. It may be noted that coat does not clear
hand as well as if started moving by swaying hips as illustrated on pages 58 and 59.
that the hand, once in motion, continue that motion without pause until the
weapon is lined on the target and the shot is fired. In order that this efficiency
be attained, four cardinal points are vital to success:
2. Let shoulder drop back in drawing.
3. Keep body motionless and draw with arm movement only.
4. Use circular, or arcing, motion of hand.
1. In instructing you to relax, lack of muscular tension is implied. Cer-
tainly there will be no attempt to tell you how to be relaxed in the face of a gun
fight, or even an exhibition of your skill before an audience. That would be
expecting too much of any intelligent nervous system. Here we are dealing
only with trying to attain the greatest possible speed, commensurate with
accuracy, that can be reached under ideal conditions — at such short ranges
that a hit can be registered on a large target while the gun is in motion. As a
matter of fact, nervous tension seems to act as a spur to the speed of your
reflexes provided muscular tension can be avoided. At least, there should be
no conscious stiffening of the arm, hand and shoulder muscles, but rather all
possible looseness of these parts should be attempted.
2. The right shoulder should be allowed to drop slightly back in the act of
drawing as opposed to the exaggerated forward thrust advocated by some
"Gunmans crouch" contrasted with straight up stance. While presenting
somewhat smaller target, this advantage is more than offset by loss of
time. Quickness of erect position could prevent your presenting any
kind of target.
methods of teaching. This is a point which you can easily prove for yourself.
If you will slowly draw a gun, using the exaggerated forward thrust of the
shoulder, you will find that the weapon cannot be leveled until it is well in front
of the body. Dropping the shoulder back instead, allows the gun to be pointed
at the target just as it clears the holster, an economy of motion which reduces
slightly the overall time. And remember that here we are dealing in split
seconds and that everything saved counts. If you fire a burst, you will find that
the hand will naturally extend further with each successive shot, giving a slight
increase of accuracy for any new targets to come under fire, but without any
loss of speed for that vital first shot. In this connection, the theory has been
advanced by this "shoulder thrust" school that the first shot should be fired as
soon as the gun clears the holster, whether lined up on the target or not. (This
is not the matter of deliberately holding low where the target is not clear due to
poor light conditions.) The idea of this being that even if those first shots only
plow up the dirt between yourself and your opponent they will disconcert him
and cause him to miss. In my opinion this theory defeats the whole idea of fast
draw marksmanship, which, when reduced to its essentials, is simply to place
your shot in a vital spot before you are hit by your opponent. Surely nothing
could be more disconcerting to the accuracy of an adversary than a .357
Magnum slug applied judiciously in the region of his belt buckle! It will beat
kicking dirt in his face every time! No man can afford to spot an opponent the
two or three, or even one wasted shots advocated by the exponents of this hair
brained theory. There is an old adage which should be held in mind at all
times as you work on the fast draw: "Speed's fine but accuracy's final." I do
not know who first made that statement, but he was a very sabe hombre.
There is too much fancy gun juggling being masqueraded as fast gun work. If
you cannot hit your target on the first shot you had best give up the quest for
speed until you can. Always remember, it is the first shot on target that
counts. Not necessarily the first shot fired. In practice, your speed should
never be allowed to get ahead of your accuracy.
3. The body should remain motionless and the draw made with the arm
only. The rigid claw-like fingers and the gunman's crouch so often seen on
movie and TV screens and described by Western writers, while both menacing
and impressive, are no part of an efficient fast draw technique. In regard to
this crouch another fatuous theory has been advanced. It makes a smaller
target of you and if you are hit you will not be knocked backward, but instead
will fall forward, thereby being enabled to continue firing enroute! As to the
smaller target, that has been a point of argument from time immemorial.
Series illustrating the draw from under coat using sway of hips to start coat away
from body. Series runs across to facing page.
Duelists of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries held opposing views on
this. One school advocated standing sidewise to an antagonist to lessen the
target area. The opponents of this idea pointed out that this would make it
probable that a hit would pierce both lungs instead of one as would be the case
if the duelist faced his adversary squarely. The question is unresolved to this
day. As to the matter of falling forward when hit; Well, now! It is hard to
imagine that defeatist attitude as part of the credo of John Wesley Hardin or
Wyatt Earp! There is no point in developing superior skill with a firearm if the
issue is to be settled by the superior ability to absorb shock on the part of the
winner rather than by the use of that superior skill. There are three good
reasons for the upright stance: There is no strained, unnatural position of the
body to hamper smooth movement of the arm; your intentions are not dis-
closed by "telegraphing your punch" as they would be by assuming a menacing
crouch; and, after training your hand to a specific task of going instinctively to
the same place, the gun will be at that place rather than having to be pursued
and caught in movement.
4. The fourth point is probably the most important. The hand must not
pause from the moment it starts moving until the instant the gun is fired. The
only means by which this can be accomplished is that the hand move in a
circular motion, "scooping" up the revolver enroute. The importance of
eliminating this stopping of the gun hand cannot be overemphasized. Aside
from the fact that a fraction of time is lost while the hand is actually stopped, it
is an indisputable fact that any movement of the hand is slowest during its
earliest stages, momentum being gained as the motion continues. Unless a
circular motion is used, the draw becomes two motions, each with its period of
overcoming the inertia of any motionless object: And since in the second stage
there are two objects, the hand and a heavy gun, to start moving again, the
speed of the entire operation is measurably delayed. This is the factor which
constitutes the difference between the top gun hand and the efficient but
slower second rater. The speed with which the hand can be made to move and
reflexes respond represents in whole that difference, since each can attain the
same proficiency in the actual mechanics of the draw.
With one exception, the technique of drawing from under a coat, as plain
clothes officers must, is the same in all essentials as the draw of an unconcealed
gun. Here a sway of the hips or short step to the left starts the coat moving
away from the right hip and the little finger edge of the hand striking against the
coat continues that movement until the coat is brushed aside, the hand continu-
ing in a circular motion as in a normal draw. Naturally, the hand must be in
front of the forward edge of the coat at the start of the draw. In this situation
the advantage gained by starting the coat away from the hip overbalances the
disadvantage of moving the hip and thereby having to "chase the gun." A
good stunt is to carry a few cartridges in the right coat pocket. When the hips
are swayed the weight of these cartridges will make the movement of the coat
more sluggish and hold it out away from the body a little longer, facilitating
completion of the draw. In all other respects the mechanics described herein
With the foregoing points in mind you are now ready to start dry practice.
That, of course, is the secret of developing a fast draw. Through hard practice
alone will you be able to perfect your technique in slow motion, striving always
for smoothness. Regardless of the starting position of your hand, make its
movement continuous. With thumbs hooked in belt, your hand describes a
circle. From hanging by your side it goes forward or back and up in an arc,
depending on starting position. From a "hands up" position, down and
around in a circle. Always one movement. This practice can be performed
before a mirror with profit for there you can see any deviation from the desired
pattern of minimum movement of the hand in its circular path. There too you
can see that the gun is raised only barely enough to clear the holster before it is
snapped into alignment with the target and whether it is pointed properly at the
completion of the draw. On each draw the trigger should be pulled starting
with the time your hand touches the gun and continuing smoothly as the draw
progresses to the point that the hammer will fall at the exact instant the muzzle
first lines up with the target. Only after your reflexes are so disciplined that
you instinctively draw and point the gun with one smooth, fluid motion should
you attempt to increase your speed. And then let the increase be gradual.
Never sacrifice smoothness for forced speed. It is a snare and a delusion. You
think you are drawing faster but the smooth draw with no waste motion is
always best. And you will find that in time you will have that speed without
straining. Your hand will unerringly cuddle the grip, your trigger finger will
find the trigger and start its pull, and the gun will fire at the very instant it is on
Do not allow yourself to become impatient with the dry-fire routine. An
attempt to try your wings too soon with a loaded gun can well lead to disaster.
It is not difficult to shoot oneself in the leg or some other more intimate part of
the anatomy. It has been done. You start your draw, your finger engages the
trigger and starts pulling, the gun catches and stops momentarily and the
trigger finger keeps going. This is known as being slow on the draw and fast on
High speed photography catches finger action at moment of hands contact with gun.
Note small and ring fingers beginning to curl around grip in number one — completing
this movement in two — and in three how closing of middle finger has pulled trigger
finger into guard and in contact with trigger.
the trigger, and, unless you wish to develop the three-toed limp of the typical
Hollywood "gunslinger," should be avoided! Aside from the danger, use of
actual loads will impede your progress. Instinctively you will pause after the
gun has cleared the holster and then pull instead of carrying through the "draw
and fire in one motion" routine you have been practicing. Before going to
normal loads and for most of your practice, wax bullets, impelled by the primer
only, should be used. A prudent man will not rely upon hip shooting at
distances greater than seven yards, the practical limit of fast gunmanship.
Beyond this distance the pistol should be brought up toward eye level as the
range increases until at the longer ranges it is fired by looking down the barrel
or actually using the sights. These squib loads are amazingly accurate up to
twenty or twenty-five feet, they practically eliminate the element of danger, and
they build up confidence so that you will let the shot go without hesitation. If
you are unable to make or otherwise procure any of these wax loads the next
best practice is to always fire two fast shots; the first an empty cylinder and the
second a live round. Thus, if an accident should happen the hammer will fall
on an unloaded cylinder. If all goes well, the second shot will give you the
information desired as to the accuracy of your gun pointing.
Any good revolver is satisfactory for fast draw work, provided the double
action is smooth. Barrel length should be between three and five inches, with
four inches probably the ideal length. A heavy barrel is preferable to one of
lighter weight since for point shooting it gives a "feel" to the weapon which is
not present when the weight is all in the hand. Some type of ramp with a
forward slanting, smooth sight should be used to avoid gouging the holster and
dragging. The only other items of equipment which will add to speed and
accuracy are custom grips, designed for double action shooting with heavy
recoil guns and well designed, high quality leather. These items are discussed
in detail in other chapters of this book.
In practicing the fast draw, the point which should always be carried
uppermost in mind is the fact that it is dangerous. The danger to yourself has
already been mentioned. It is even more dangerous to others. There is
something about the subject, probably the fact that each of us retain a little of
the "Cowboy and Indians" spirit of boyhood, which brings out overenthu-
siasm. It hardly seems necessary to point out the thoroughness with which the
gun should be unloaded before dry practice. Take out the loads, count them
and put them in your pocket. Then open the gun again for another look.
Most men will follow this routine religiously. It is after practice and the
reloading of the gun that the period of greatest danger begins. Then is when
that enthusiasm gets the best of you. You forget that the gun is reloaded and
make one more practice draw; or there is a bull session about drawing and you
want to illustrate a point or demonstrate the flashing speed you have devel-
oped. The resulting loud noise is most disconcerting in a closed room, even if
the consequences are not more serious. One habit, if unfailingly adhered to,
will prevent such an accident from ever happening. As soon as you have
reloaded and returned the gun to the holster, fasten the safety strap as part of
that operation and KEEP IT SNAPPED until you have left the scene and your
mind is thoroughly engrossed with some other subject. Then if you try to
make another draw you will be reminded forcibly that you have reloaded and
that practice is over for the time being. The gun cannot be drawn and you will
be saved either remorse or embarrassment.
Fast draw and point shooting are important skills of the enforcement
officer. Statistics show that affrays between officers and criminals usually
occur under conditions of surprise, short range, and poor light. Conditions
which make deliberate, aimed fire not only inadvisable but impossible. That
so many officers are inclined to view their deficiencies in these skills with
complacency is alarming. This attitude may have been influenced by the game
of Quick Draw which has attained considerable popularity in recent years.
Here, the speed with which a gun can be drawn and fired is, in itself, an end,
rather than a means to an end. That this pastime should be so lightly regarded
by an officer as to cause him to dismiss all fast draw practice as a game beneath
the dignity of a grown man is an indication that the officer is not thinking
clearly on the subject. A fast draw is only the first part, albeit a very important
part, of the process of getting a quick hit on an opponent. Its mastery is just as
important today as it was in the 1870's. This is being proved every day;
positively by survival and negatively by the death of an officer. Police records
all over the country verify this statement. On the negative side, a typical
example was reported in today's newspaper. Two officers answered the routine
call "go to apartment house, corner of Blank and Central, man beating his
wife." Climbing the stairs to the indicated apartment they looked up into the
barrel of a .22 pistol in the hand of a psycho on the landing above. Caught by
surprise and expecting no violence, both were shot down by an unbalanced,
inept amateur. Although we will never know, it appears probable that, had
they been trained "fast draw artists," at least one of these officers should have
been able to draw and shoot before he was shot down. Another case, on the
positive side, happened within my own service so recently that the officer
involved is still convalescing. Since it not only points up the value of being
able to draw and shoot fast and accurately, but also graphically demonstrates
another commodity, determination, extolled elsewhere in this work as a requi-
site of survival, I feel that the details are sufficiently illustrative and interesting
to bear repeating.
Senior Patrol Inspector Darwin Earle is Inspector in Charge of the Mer-
cedes, Texas, station of the U. S. Border Patrol. On the night of July 24,
1964, he was seriously wounded under the following circumstances: After
observing the disposition of his evening shift teams on line watch near Mer-
cedes, Earle, who was working alone on back up patrol, had stopped near the
intersection of a levee and a trail much used by smugglers and wetbacks.
Observing two men on the levee silhouetted against the faint moonlight, Earle
took up a position on the trail designed to intercept their course. Since this
appeared to be a routine "wetback" apprehension with little danger involved,
Inspector Earle did not draw his gun. However, he took the precaution of
checking to see that the safety strap was snapped out of the way on the back of
the holster. Waiting for the man in the lead to pass him, he ordered the two to
halt. The first man, who was apparently carrying a gun in his hand, without
warning, whirled and fired one shot from a distance of about six feet. The
bullet struck Earle in the lower abdomen, going on through and hitting his right
hip bone. This probably saved the Inspector's life, since the shock of the bullet
hitting bone caused him to fall sideways due to the crumpling of his right leg.
As he was falling he drew and fired three shots at his assailant before he struck
the ground. All three shots, either of which would have proved almost
instantly fatal, took effect and the man fell into a ditch. The second man ran
south in the direction from which he had come.
Inspector Earle, badly wounded, crawled back to his vehicle, losing con-
sciousness several times enroute. Though the distance was only 105 steps it
required over thirty minutes for him to reach the Scout, pull himself into the
driver's seat and radio for help. His case was complicated in that the vehicle
was parked in a radio "dead spot" and he was forced to start the motor and
move a few yards before he could get an answer. He was then able to drive the
Scout back to the roadway before again becoming unconscious.
The deceased alien, who was carrying a package of marijuana in his other
hand, was identified as Cosme Cuellar-Cuellar, a notorious, vicious, criminal,
who had amassed a total of 198 years in prison sentences for crimes of burglary
and assault. He had been described by the Cameron County Sheriff's Office as
the "Valley's Public Enemy No. 1." His operations were trade-marked by
brutality as he invariably beat, shot or stabbed his robbery victims. All in all,
he was a far cry from the routine arrest that Inspector Earle was expecting to
Taking into consideration the violent character of the criminal, it is apparent
that he was coolly waiting for Earle to fall to the ground and cease moving so.
that he could be surer of hitting his target with follow-up shots. His mistake
was that he underestimated the speed and the determination of the officer he
had shot. Anyone knowing Inspector Earle could have told him that this
officer did not know how to give up. As for his underestimating the speed with
which retribution would overtake him, he should have known from a reputa-
tion forty years in the building that the officers of the U. S. Border Patrol are
tough, fast, and accurate. Unfortunately for Cuellar, most of the contraband-
istas who could have told him this were not talking.
It is clear that here, in a setting as modern as today, an officer would have
died if he had not been fast and sure with his gun and if he had not continued to
fight, even after being seriously wounded.
It has been said that the fastest draw is to have the gun in your hand when
trouble seems imminent. Though plausible on the surface, such advice is
patently impractical. Unless you are the owner of a highly accurate Ouija
Board or crystal ball, this would necessitate your carrying a six-shooter in your
hand at all times to be on the safe side. A practice the general public, and your
Chief, would not be inclined to view kindly. If you KNOW that you are in for
a fight, it might be an advantage. But the confidence inspired by your
knowledge of what you can do with a gun if necessary is bound to be reflected
in your bearing. It is a confidence that cannot be counterfeited. Either you
have it or you don't. If you do, it will be sensed by an enemy, causing doubt to
arise in his mind; and a feeling of personal doubt will adversely affect his
actions in a situation where loss of any advantage might be fatal. It will enable
you to go through many a tough spot with a poise and presence of mind which
may avert the actual opening of hostilities which would surely follow either a
show of force or lack of confidence on your part. The statement that having a
gun in your hand in advance is always a great advantage is open to question
unless it is a shotgun which understandably stifles all initiative in the opposi-
tion! Aside from being an "overt act" which would probably "open the ball"
unnecessarily, the slightest distraction of attention, such as turning the eyes
to check a noise or movement, is long enough for a fast man to bring his
hands down and kill that fellow with the "drop" before he can fire the gun in
his hand. Once again a matter of getting the jump on his reflexes.
In the final analysis, it is the unexpected situation that packs the most danger
for an officer, and it is in such situations that fast draw gunmanship pays off.
So get in front of that mirror and start practicing.
A HANDGUN bears the same relation to a law enforcement officer that a
hammer does to a carpenter. It is the tool and symbol of his trade. That this
analogy is by no means perfect is quite evident. When the carpenter makes a
mistake he pulls the bent nail and drives a new one. In cases requiring the use
of his "tool" the officer seldom gets a second chance. His mistake is, more
often than not, final.
If the analogy is not perfect, neither is the tool. Where an officer knew that
he was heading into trouble, certainly the handgun would not be his choice of
weapons. It is difficult to shoot well, inherently inaccurate (as compared to a
rifle), and lacking in power. Probably his first choice would be a shotgun.
There we have the most efficient tranquilizer ever developed. Or, if a shotgun
was not available, then a rifle would get the nod over a handgun. Unfortu-
nately, such prior knowledge is seldom available, so we come back to the
original premise: The handgun is the tool of the peace officer's trade. It, and it
alone, will probably be his sole companion when the chips are down. What it
lacks in the other virtues are overbalanced by its portability and availa-
Indispensability conceded, let's take a look at what is available. There are
three basic types of handgun, each with some claim to consideration by the
officer: These are the single action revolver, the semi-auto, and the double
The single action, with its classic lines and colorful background has a strong
appeal; however, this appeal is more nostalgic than practical. Despite tales of
its ruggedness, the single action trigger mechanism is the most delicate of the
three and easily put out of action or rendered unsafe. Other drawbacks are
that only five rounds may be safely carried in the cylinder and reloading is a
very slow process. Although, in the hands of an expert, the single action can
probably be drawn and fired faster than any other weapon, this extreme speed
can only be attained if accuracy is disregarded. The technique is difficult to
master; and, of course, after that first shot, the speed and accuracy with which
succeeding shots can be delivered cannot be compared with either the auto-
matic or the double action. This statement is made in the full knowledge that
"fanning" — a form of suicide practiced by make believe gunfighters — is a very
rapid method of burning gunpowder. The single action cannot be seriously
considered by a working peace officer.
Second on our list is the automatic. (Yeah, I know. We'll call it the
"automatic" anyway, just like everyone else does.) Here we have two strong
The Great Tranquilizer! Sawed
off shotgun used in illustra-
tion and on frontispiece was
made by Ithica for the Wells
Fargo Company. From the col-
lection of Dr. John Palmer of
points, both related to firepower. The automatic carries more rounds in the
magazine and can be reloaded with spare clips more rapidly than any other
type of handgun. As a military weapon against a massed banzai attack, it
would be hard to beat. Its greatest disadvantages are that it is slow for the first
shot, is not in most models a natural "pointer," and is limited in the power of
the loads which are available. In models which can be fired double action the
first shot is appreciably speeded, but the action of none of these can be
compared with the smooth action of a quality double action revolver. Where
the double action feature is not present, some automatic users attempt to make
a more rapid first shot possible by carrying the weapon in the holster cocked,
with the thumb safety on. While I am aware that there are other safety devices
and that, theoretically at least, this is a safe practice, I have never seen a gun so
Above: The three basic types of handguns. Reading from top to bottom: Single
action; Auto-loader; and Double action. The double action is the type best suited for
service use in Law Enforcement.
A well designed holster for the .45 Auto
carried without a momentary feeling that the man had forgot something!
I am told that in some combat style matches the .45 auto is presently
enjoying considerable popularity and success. This does not particularly
surprise me, but neither does it do anything to weaken my conviction that it is
not a practical defense weapon for law enforcement. I would be surprised to
learn that a serious competitor in a match requiring a fast draw and accurate
first shot was using an automatic on which the grip safety had not been
deactivated. I would certainly question the judgement of an officer who
knowingly carried an automatic into a combat situation without first taking
care of that little matter. In a hurry, you don't always get a perfect grip — par-
ticularly on a slabsided varmint like the .45 auto. Failure to have the hand in
proper position to depress the grip safety could wipe you out in a match before
you got started. As to the result of such a mistake in a gun fight . . . well,
no comment seems necessary.
There are other respects in which the automatic fails as a police weapon. It
was designed to shoot a round nosed, full jacket bullet. Since no full jacketed
handgun bullet I have ever seen was worth a tinker's dam for combat, a lead,
semi-wadcutter load is indicated. I have used a number of .45 automatics,
altered for semi-wadcutter target loads, for match shooting. These weapons
reliably handled the bullet and powder charge, for which each had been altered
and tuned, with only a very occasional jam which made me think that the
calculated risk of a malfunction in a match was justified ... a risk I
would not have wanted to run if the target was going to shoot
back . . . however, each of these weapons was modified by many hours of
intensive work by a master gunsmith and each was quite sensitive to any
change in diet. To make an automatic qualify for police use, a suitable load
would have to be handloaded (the only lead wadcutter commercially available
is in a light target load), and each weapon tailored to fit that load, both for
accuracy and for functioning reliability. While this might be done by an
intensely interested individual, it would not be feasible on a departmental
basis. Only loads and weapons which can be purchased by contract or bought
"over the counter" can be considered as practical or satisfactory for a police
All of which leads me to the conclusion that: 1. The automatic is a fine
military weapon due to its firepower and fast reloading, but it has unreliable
first shot speed unless the grip safety is tied down and it would be unsafe so
altered. (Particularly with a big custom extension on the thumb safety); 2. It
lacks sufficient shocking power with full metal jacketed bullets but would not
function with complete reliability with semi-wadcutter lead bullets; 3. It is not
a good natural pointer; and 4. To be modified to make it more suitable for
police work would require that it become a custom item, both as to weapon and
This brings us to the logical choice and most widely used police weapon, the
double action revolver. Here, in my opinion, is the closest to the ideal for
enforcement officer use presently available. Fast for the first and succeeding
shots, safe and dependable, it also points well for double action hip shooting.
Used single action for deliberate, aimed shots it can be effective against man-
sized targets at 200 yards and beyond. There is a wide range of loads
available, including the powerful Magnums.
The double action feature can be improved by smoothing all the working
parts and lightening some of the springs. The smoothing can be done by any
amateur with time, sweat and crocus cloth. The springs are another problem.
The mainspring should never be lightened. Positive ignition is more important
than weight of pull. Some of the coil springs, such as the trigger return spring
in the Smith & Wesson, can be shortened to advantage. Be sure you have extra
springs available in case you clip off one turn too many. The only other
alterations necessary or advisable are cutting off the hammer spur, rounding
the corners of the rear sight in adjustable sight models, and cutting away about
half .of the width of the forward part of the trigger guard on the trigger finger
side. This forward part of the guard should not be entirely removed for several
reasons : The remainder of the guard can become bent, jamming the trigger; the
finger can catch the tip of this cutaway guard, making a shift of finger position
necessary before the trigger can be pulled; and most important, it is a danger-
Trigger guard cut away. In a cold
country where bulky gloves are a
necessity this mutilation might be
Above: Details of "dehorned" hammer and rounded rear sight are shown in this
illustration. These are among the few "mutilations" which have merit. Weapon may
still be easily fired by starting hammer back double action far enough to allow a good
thumb hold and finish cocking single action. Alterations here shown may prevent a
cut hand and can prevent hanging or tearing coat when worn with plain clothes.
Below: Trigger guard on left has been slimmed by cutting away part of the guard on
trigger finger side and rounding smoothly. This allows finger to slide in smoothly and
as quickly as if entire front of guard had been cut away without the danger or other
disadvantages of that operation.
GREAT GUNS! The finest made anywhere in the world! With any of these beauties an
officer is well equipped. Reading from top to bottom: Smith & Wesson Combat
Magnum (.357); Smith & Wesson .44 Magnum (Made in same frame for .357 Mag-
num); Colt Three Fifty Seven (357 Magnum) and Colt Python (.357 Magnum.)
ous alteration. That trigger guard was not put there as an ornament. Reduc-
ing the width of this forward portion by about half and rounding it smoothly
serves the same purpose as would its removal, without the disadvantages of
that operation. Cutting off the hammer spur and rounding the corners of the
rear sight prevent damage to the hand in drawing, and remove projections
which might possibly become caught on clothing. These "mutilations" should
be judiciously considered before being undertaken, with a thought to the resale
effect of these operations on a gun you might wish later to dispose of. Some
thought should also be given to the temperament of your chief before attempt-
ing any such alteration on an issue weapon.
For many years officers, as a whole, favored five and six inch barrel lengths.
There are advantages inherent in these longer barrels. They deliver appre-
ciably higher velocities with the same loads and point better than the short
barrels due to the "feel" of those extra inches out where they count; and, of
course, for aimed shots the longer sight radius means more accurate align-
ment. There is no appreciable difference in speed of draw. Studies of
photographs taken of high speed draws show that, although every effort is
made to barely clear the holster, the very force used invariably causes several
inches of excess barrel clearance.
These advantages of the longer barrel, although desirable, yielded to the
practical requirement of comfort in carrying with the change in law enforce-
ment operating procedures. When the officer patrolled on foot or on horse-
back, the length of his barrel was no bother. Now however, with nearly all
patrolling done by car or jeep, the longer barrel guns are pushed up by the seat
and cause discomfort to the officer. The popularity of competitions over
combat courses for police, such as the Indiana University Shoot, has caused
comment by writers who noted that the high scorers almost invariably use six
inch barreled guns; that the man with a four inch barrel was outgunned. There
has even been some prophecy that enforcement agencies would go back to the
longer barrels. I feel that these prophecies are premature. The seers are
overlooking the fact that the competitors they have been admiring are playing a
game in which hits in the ten and "X" rings are required to win. An officer can
win in a gun fight with hits somewhat more widely dispersed than will result
from the difference in accuracy of shooting long or short barrels. One eight-
hour shift with the gun butt poking into the floating ribs should be sufficient to
convince the most biased that the four inch barrel is here to stay.
In this country we are fortunate that we have available to us the finest double
action weapons made in the world: The .357 Combat Magnum; the heavy
frame .357 Magnum and the .44 Magnum, as manufactured by Smith &
Wesson; the Colt Python, and Three Fifty Seven models. Better guns cannot
be bought at any price, anywhere. You can't go wrong with one of these
hanging by your side.
Calibers and Loads
ALTHOUGH THE .357 Magnum is a close approach, in my opinion the ideal
caliber for enforcement work is not presently available in a suitable loading.
This "ideal" when presented will be the .41 caliber loaded to between 1200
and 1300 F/S with a 200 grain semi-wadcutter bullet.
The present "standard" for police agencies is the .38 Special. This is a
highly developed cartridge of superb accuracy which is at its best on a target
range in wadcutter loadings. As a police load it leaves much to be desired.
Charitably, it can be said that it fulfills the minimum requirements. Any less
powerful cartridge should not be considered except for specialized usage.
Even in souped-up hand loads the best the .38 Special can boast is that it
"approaches" the .357 Magnum.
The best cartridges for the automatics are the .45 Colt automatic and the 9
mm loads. Hand-loaded with semi-wadcutter lead bullets they are adequate
from the standpoint of shock but do not function reliably. In factory loadings
with the full metal jacket bullets available, they function reliably but are
In the Big Bertha class are the hand-loaded .45 Colt and .44 Special
Cartridge and the .44 Magnum. These loads leave nothing to be desired from
the standpoint of effectiveness. A solid hit with either will suspend hostilities
indefinitely. Unfortunately, they are almost equally severe on the shooter's
end. The heavy recoil and loud report are conducive to flinching in all but the
most hardened shooter, and particularly with the .44 Magnum, recoil is so
great that recovery is difficult and a second shot, if necessary, cannot be fired
quickly. Although it is not likely that a second shot would be necessary to
dispose of a person clobbered with this cannon, the possibility that he might
have a friend should not be overlooked. These loads are unnecessarily power-
The .357 Magnum is presently the best cartridge available. With the 160
grain bullet in 4-inch barrels it delivers slightly over 1200 F/S in the factory
loading and an authoritative 500 plus foot pounds of energy. While a little
more shock power would be desirable, no other available cartridge is so near
the ideal for police use. As an added advantage .38 Special loads can be fired
Comparative recoil of .38 Special (upper left),
.357 Magnum (lower left) and .44 Magnum
(upper right). It will be noted that recoil of
.38 Special is hardly apparent. This comment
also applies to the shock delivered by this
load. By comparison, observe that the recoil
of the .44 Magnum has actually moved entire
body of shooter. The facial expression was in-
voluntary, due to shock of recoil, but pretty
well expresses feeling of the shooter.
These pictures illustrate that recoil moves a
weapon much less when fired from hip than
from target shooting position.
S & W Chief Special Airweight, .38 Spl. caliber. This is a
fine hideout gun due to its fire power, small size and
negligible weight. Would be ideal in .22 RFM caliber.
in the .357, thus cutting the expense of practice substantially. As a matter of
fact, it is probable that the average owner of a .357 Magnum will shoot
hundreds of .38 Special rounds through his gun for every Magnum round
fired. This leads to the conclusion that the lighter ".41 frame" revolvers
should be given preference over the heavy frame models. The S&W Combat
Magnum, for instance, is lighter and consequently more comfortable to carry
than the heavy Magnum. It has a faster, smoother action due to the difference
in cylinder weight. In effect, you have in one a heavy .357 Magnum which will
fire .38 Special loads, and in the other a light .38 Special which will fire the
Magnum load. While this is true of the .357 in which the recoil is mild
enough to be handled comfortably by the lighter weapon, it is most emphati-
cally not true of the bigger calibers. Here plenty of recoil absorbing weight is a
necessity to comfort and accuracy.
The one light loading that I would like to see would be the airweight model
Cobras and Chief Specials chambered for the new .22 RF Magnum load. This
is a wicked little cartridge and would add little to the weight of the light models
(five .38 Special cartridges weigh about as much as the Chief airweight), and
would make a wonderful addition to the "hide-out" field, particularly for
officers working in hot countries where usually a coat is not worn during the
hot summer months.
Elmer Keith figures that anybody who doesn't enjoy shooting a mild recoil load like
the .44 Magnum is a plumb sissy. Here he lets one go that even he doesn't consider
on the weak side: .45-70 in Remington factory loading consisting of 405 grain slug
on top of a large Texas jigger of black powder.
These small, light guns have a definite value in plain clothes work. Every
officer who is either assigned that duty or is considered to be in constant duty
status and expected to carry a gun at all times would be well advised to own
one. They are about the same size but lighter than the Derringers which are
coming back into some popularity; safer, and have more firepower. When on
duty and wearing a coat I prefer to carry my regular service .357 Magnum.
Off duty, or when the weather is hot, there is great temptation to conclude that
there won't be any trouble anyway, and go unarmed rather than to either wear
a coat or look conspicuous wearing a big gun without the coat to conceal it.
That's the time when the little airweight model, slipped into a trouser pocket, is
Charlie Askins, one time Border Patrolman and National Pistol Champ, pleads guilty
to Elmer's charge . . . furnished his own caption for this picture: "Who the hell
says the .44 Magnum kicks!?"
worth its weight in gold. And for such use the smallest and lightest gun
available, provided it has reasonable power, is the best.
A recent letter from Doug Hellstrom, Smith and Wesson's dynamic young
executive vice-president, says that they are working on the problems attendant
to marrying the .22 RF Magnum to the Chief airweight — and there are lots of
problems. Aluminum cylinder and barrel with steel liners are indicated to
keep down weight. The big problem, however, is devising a method to keep
the hot gases from eating through the aluminum frame above the junction of
cylinder and barrel. If this problem can be whipped it should result in the
perfect hideout gun. It will not only outreach a switch blade, but will pack
plenty of close range authority into an easily carried and concealed package.
Just before sending this book to press, data has arrived on the long awaited
.41 Magnum. In company with many other officers, as well as gun writers, I
have urged the need of this load. It should fill the gap between the .357
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Pictured here is the new S&W Model 57 in .41 Magnum caliber. Loads in foreground
from left to right: 38 Special and .357 Magnum; .44 Special and .44 Magnum; .41
Magnum lead and jacketed loads.
Magnum which is a little short on shocking power and the .44 Magnum which
has too much; on the back end, anyway. I feel that in time this load will be
adopted as a standard by police. That this will not happen overnight is
suggested by the .357 Magnum which, after about thirty years, is just becoming
I do not intend to write much of this load because I am sure that before this
book is printed, reams will have appeared about the "new" .41 Magnum in
the gun magazines. However, regarding all the writers who have climbed on
the bandwagon and, I am sure, will now make loud claims to have been the
pappy or mammy of this load, I wish to make a statement! I tagged along with
Elmer Keith and said Amen while Elmer cornered the firearms and ammuni-
tion people, individually and collectively, at the 1963 NRA members meeting
in Washington and got commitments which actually started the ball to roll-
ing. He badgered Remington and Norma into saying "If someone will make a
gun we will make the ammo." . . . Smith and Wesson and Ruger agreed,
"We'll make the guns if the ammo people will come up with a load." After
that it was just a matter of bringing them together with their commitments,
which he did: and a new load was born.
So, regardless of who set the actual dimensions and specifications, it was that
grand old man of the shooting game who did the work that made this load a
reality. I had hoped that one of the loads would be named the .41 Keith. It
would have been fitting recognition to a man who has given much to shoot-
WHEN I LOOK back down the years I cannot help but shudder at the
memory of thousands of rounds of wadcutter and service loads I have fired in
fast-draw point shooting practice. The only defense for this foolishness I can
think of quickly is that I did not know of any other way to go about this
practice. A more probable answer that occurs to me is that, being young and
reckless in those days, I would have probably considered any substitute for the
real thing as too sissified for anyone as rough and tough as I fancied myself to
be. Be that as it may, from the day I learned about wax bullets I have confined
my fast draw practice to the use of that pantywaist gun fodder.
Wax bullet loads consist of all the components of regular ammunition except
the powder, with wax being substituted for metal in the projectile. Basically, a
de-primed cartridge case is loaded by pushing the mouth through a V2" cake of
paraffin. This cuts out a cylinder of paraffin closely resembling in length,
diameter and shape a standard wadcutter bullet for the caliber being loaded.
This bullet, of course, is ready "loaded" in the case by the operation of cutting
it out. The addition of a fresh primer completes the operation, the piece of
paraffin being propelled at considerable velocity and amazing short range
accuracy by the explosive force of the primer only. In addition to the obvious
advantages of safety, lack of noise, and economy of this loading, is the fact that
it can be used for practice with your regular service gun and gives most of the
answers with few disadvantages.
Progressing from the basic loading process described above, refinements of
technique can add to the quality of the ammunition and increase the produc-
tion rate far beyond this primitive method. There are presently a number of
wax reloading kits on the market, each of which — while basically similar — ap-
proach the problem from different angles. Among the better ones of these
with which I am familiar are the Pacific Wax Loader, manufactured by Pacific
Gunsight Company and the Accra-wax Loader set, put out by the Lyman
Gunsight Company. Along with these kits new wax compounds have been
developed in an attempt to lessen the disadvantages of plain paraffin. Among
these are Accra-wax by Lyman; and the "Red Jet" bullets by Casco Cartridge
Plastic cases and bullets.
Company, in which the material is actually moulded into bullets which are
loaded directly into the case mouth with the fingers and may be reused if not
fired against a solid object.
Further refinements are exemplified by the use of plastics; both bullets and
cases being made from these new materials. These may be purchased from the
Speer Products Company of Lewiston, Idaho and from the Plastics Training
Products Company of Bloomfield, New Jersey. These plastic bullets may be
used over and over and they have further advantages in that they do not melt,
nor do they "lead" the barrel as paraffin does. An advantage of the plastic
case is that they are so distinctive in appearance that there is no danger of
confusing them with "real" ammunition, as is possible when factory brass is
reloaded. Additionally, there is a danger inherent in the possible reuse of
cases in which the flash holes have been reamed (of which more later) , for full
charge loads. This is a mistake which the appearance and feel of the plastic
cases will preclude.
Commercial wax loading kits shown are the Lyman Accra Wax and the Pacific.
Jet" pre-formed wax bullets in left foreground.
The case holder pictured
on right side of picture is
machined from a bronze
plate. A completely effec-
tive simple substitute can
be made by cutting off the
legs (left) of a plastic
cartridge holder from a box
of Remington cartridges.
Result shown in center.
Homemade kit. Cake of wax with perforations has already been used and can be dis-
carded or remelted into cake of proper size.
Although the plastic bullets, new compounds, and commercial loading kits
have decided advantages; on the debit side the bullets are considerably more
expensive than paraffin, and the "do it yourself" fan can devise a loader which
will do a much faster job than anything presently on the market. One such
device is illustrated herein. This consists of a metal plate which can be drilled
to act as a guide and holder for 50 to 60 .38 Special cases — (the plastic
cartridge holder in which Remington .38 Special wadcutters are packed can
substitute for this plate by merely cutting off the legs) — and a sturdy wooden
or metal box, open on one end, to hold the paraffin and plate in place while
pressure is being applied. Its size is predicated on the dimensions of the
paraffin cake and the metal plate, both of which should fit snugly within the
box. The holes in the plate are filled with de-primed empty cases and placed
mouth down on the cake of paraffin within the box. The top is put in place and
pushed down with some sort of press. A large vise can be used for this
purpose, although a bench press is more convenient. As a matter of fact, by
first leaving the paraffin block in warm water until it is flexible, the cases may
be pressed through merely by the use of hand pressure. The next step, of
course, is to remove the "waxed" cases, replace with empties and proceed with
From the above it will be noted the cases are not primed before "waxing."
This is left as a separate operation after the cases have been filled with wax. I
have found that when subjected to heat the loads will soften and an oil from the
paraffin seeps into the primers and de-activates them. It appears to make little
difference to this oil whether the cartridges are stacked base up or base down.
It will get to the primers somehow. Accordingly, the cases should be loaded
with wax, which is the most time consuming of the loading processes, and the
priming left to a convenient time shortly before the loads are to be fired. Of
course, the cases are not primed before waxing for the above reason and
because, if the primer pocket is sealed, air pressure exerts a piston action,
pushing the bullet out of the case.
One difficulty encountered with these squib loads is the tendency of the
primer to back out and lock the action. In a regular load, the recoil forces the
case head tightly against the face plate of the revolver and thus prevents any
backing out of the primer. In wax loads, since there is no recoil and all the
force of the explosion occurs in the primer pocket itself, primers which may fit
loosely have a tendency to push back. This can be very annoying since often
the action will be locked so hard as to require considerable effort to release. It
also breaks up any rapid fire sequence. Two remedies are recommended.
First, and most effective, ream out the flash hole of each case to a diameter of
approximately Va inch. This allows the gas to escape from the primer pocket
into the body of the case more quickly, reducing pressures against the primer.
Cases so altered should be plainly marked to prevent their reuse with regular
powder and lead bullet loads. Pressures would probably be dangerously
higher due to the reamed flash hole. An added dividend provided by this
operation is a slight increase in velocity. The other remedy is to make certain
that primers are fully seated, exerting sufficient pressure in this operation to
force them firmly aganst the bottom of the primer pocket.
Variations in the amount of air space between the base of the wax bullet and
the bottom of the case will adversely affect accuracy. To remedy this, push
each bullet to the bottom of the case with mild pressure. (Too much pressure
would deform the bullet base against the irregular case bottom.) This also
expands the nose of the bullet slightly, making it a snugger fit and preventing it
Loading wax bullets using homemade equipment. Paraffin cake placed in bottom of
retaining box. De-primed cases loaded into holes drilled through metal block are set
mouth down on cake of paraffin.
Box placed in arbor press and fitted wooden block set on top of cases.
Cases being pressed through paraffin cake. Each case acts like miniature "biscuit
cutter", cutting out wax "wad cutter" bullets which remain in cases.
After removing from box, turn over and push paraffin bullets to bottom of case.
Cases are then removed and after priming, are ready to shoot.
from falling out of the case. This sometimes saves an exhibition shooter
considerable embarrassment. Even if he is sure the cartridge he just fired was
a blank it is a little hard to convince an audience that was the cause of an
Of course it takes all kinds to make a world, so sooner or later you will meet
a blood and thunder character who will tell you that he has added considerable
tone and quality to his wax bullet loads by the addition of a little black
powder. And he will intimate that you should do likewise if you would enjoy
all the benefit to be derived from these loads. Actually, this fellow has missed
the point entirely. The value of these loads is that they afford accuracy
without danger. By increasing the velocity you will lose both advantages.
Accuracy is largely due to the spin imparted by the rifling, just as is the case
with a metallic bullet. The soft wax cannot stand much velocity without
stripping, with the result that it "squirts" out of the barrel with no rotating
action. Also, with velocity, it takes on the characteristics of a real bullet and
can penetrate to dangerous depth in flesh if fired at close range. The plastic
bullets can take more velocity than can the wax, since they are harder and more
solid; however, they become even more dangerous. Large pistol primers may
be used with the plastic bullets but best results with wax loads are obtained
using small primers. Of course, since all the propulsion comes from the
primer, it must give consistent pressure if accuracy is to be attained. Of all the
primers presently available, the one I have found to be most reliable in this re-
spect is the CCI Magnum primer manufactured by the Cascade Cartridge
The use of wax loads is an invaluable aid to fast draw and hip shooting
practice, both for the individual and for departments. As mentioned before,
they give the answers without the danger always present with regular loads.
They can be fired indoors at moving picture targets where recognition plays a
part in training and at a small fraction of the cost of lead and powder loads.
One word of caution is worth repetition. Any cartridge cases to be used in this
practice should be clearly marked in such a manner as to be highly distinctive.
In addition to the already mentioned danger to reloaders, since they are fired in
service revolvers, there is always a danger of loading a regular wadcutter in
place of the squib load. Use of the plastic cases or properly marking brass
cases will reduce the chance of such a mistake to a minimum; however, no
possibility should be overlooked and it is a good practice to have the loading
checked by a second party before firing is allowed.
Combat Style Shooting
THE MOST difficult of all firearms to learn to shoot accurately is the hand-
gun. It must be supported by the hands alone at one point, as compared with
the rifle where shoulder and hands form a three point support. The sight
radius is so short that any error of alignment is magnified tremendously out at
the target. This short radius combined with instability of hold make it
critically sensitive to any movement caused by pulling the trigger. Originally it
was not designed as a precision weapon. Its sole purpose was to be a close
range mankiller. In these days of scope sighted handguns chambered for high
velocity, super accurate, small caliber cartridges, this purpose has become
largely obscured. But the fact remains unchanged. It was designed for self
defense at close to medium ranges. It is in this role that the handgun has
greatest interest to the lawman.
The only dependable way to learn to shoot a handgun is to start with
deliberate, aimed, single action fire at a bull's-eye target until the fundamentals
of trigger squeeze and sight alignment are thoroughly mastered. Only then
should the shooter concern himself with fast double action shooting. Good
habits well learned stay with us for years. Bad habits seem to stay forever.
Double action shooting, with its long trigger movement and 1 5-20 pound pull
is infinitely more difficult than single action where a three pound pull will trip
the trigger with no perceptible movement. Since the secrets of single action
target shooting have been discussed in reams of print, I will write here only of
the double action "combat" style, with the comment that the single action
fundamentals should be learned first.
Combat shooting, so called, is not confined to any specific style or method.
It ranges from fast point-blank hip shooting to single action fire from a rest at
long range. Its nature is governed by the situation, with range the greatest
single factor in determining the method to be used. Speed is a second limiting
factor. There is one common denominator. Its purpose is to get a disabling
hit upon an opponent before he can do the same to you, regardless of how you
go about it. Style is strictly secondary to effectiveness.
First, let us consider a range of from to 3 yards. At such close distance,
which we will call hip shooting range, the shot can be fired at utmost speed and
You would have to be a real old-timer to recognize the hand-
some young fellow under the 40-gallon hat. . . . But if you
don't recognize the HAT. . . . You're just not a gun bug. My
old friend Elmer Keith demonstrates perfect combat shooting
form with two guns
a hit made on a reasonable sized target without the necessity of stopping the
gun and consciously bringing it into alignment. The shot can be fired as part of
the draw — as soon as the gun clears the holster and is rocked into line. At
such close ranges "aiming" is solely by feel. The wrist is relaxed and may be
turned for firing in any direction. Accuracy, of course, as at any range, is
inversely proportional to the speed with which the shot is fired. If you will
pick up a revolver, close your eyes, and wiggle it around you will find that you
can actually feel the location of the end of the barrel. This feel is more
pronounced with long barrelled guns or with shorter, say 4", heavy barrels. It
is at its weakest with a "snubby," which can be compared to pointing your fist
as opposed to pointing your finger. With practice you get this finger pointing
feel as soon as you have the weight of the gun in your hand. Accuracy can be
extended to seven to ten yards using this method if there is a definite pause for
full awareness of the feel, but it is most valuable for those few occasions at
close range where you really need to hurry.
From 3 to 7 yards, for want of a better name, let's call it the gun throwing
method. Here you must start slowing down as the distance increases. (If you
knew you had the time, bringing the gun up to eye level would be best at any
distance over 5 yards.) This method is similar to an underhand knife toss
from level with, and beside the hip. The secret of accuracy is to carry the toss
forward against the pull of the muscles in the top of the shoulder until they
bring it to a halt. You should be able to feel full strain against these muscles.
The gun will be very little above belt high and you will be surprised at how
smoothly it fires when it hits the end of the line. I believe the reason that this
method is so accurate is that swinging the gun forward towards the target gets
you in alignment and the pull of the shoulder muscles stopping you at the same
time takes care of the elevation problem. Be sure that you reach out to the
limit. A try or two will tell you from the feel just what is meant by the above.
It is similar to the important trick of aerial shooting, where you must extend
your arm as fully as possible toward the target to straighten your elbow. The
big difference is that here the elbow is bent and the reaching toward the target
is with the shoulder muscles.
From 7 to 15 yards the gun should preferably be held with both hands,
particularly if more than one shot is to be fired. It can be fired from belt level
at the forward part of this range if speed seems of top importance, but should
be brought up fully into the line of sight, even though the sights are not actually
used, as the distance increases.
From 15 to 25 yards the gun should be brought up fully into the line of
Left: to 3 yards. Gun barely clears
holster as it is rocked into line and
fired instantly, with loose wrist by feel
of the weapon only. Very fast. For point
blank range only.
Left: 3-7 yards. Like tossing a knife
underhand. All the way forward against
pull of shoulder muscles until these
muscles bring arm to a stop.
Right: Closest half of 7-15-yard range.
Use both hands, particularly if more
than one shot will be fired. A gun fight
is not the place to get style conscious!
Right: 15 to 25 yards and beyond.
Bring gun further up into line of sight
as range increases until sights are
being carefully aligned at long ranges.
Never stand up if you can sit down — and never sit if you can lie down! Colonel
Charles Askins demonstrates a combination sitting-prone position. Good for resting
and for hitting something at long range. A very practical "sitting" position.
sight. A thing to remember here is that in bringing the gun up you should
consciously bring it up barrel high. This allows you to get your sights or the
barrel aligned more quickly than if the barrel was low so that the front sight is
obscured ... in which case it will have to be tilted into view, the front
sight "picked up" and then lowered into the rear notch. A needless waste of
time. Firing can be single or double action. At these distances speed and
accuracy are not likely. At the forward edge of this 15-25 yard boundary,
looking down the barrel should be sufficient and faster. As the distance nears
the 25 yard mark it is better that you consciously, even though roughly, look
through the sights and align them. The gun can either be shot with one hand
or held in both. The two handed hold, while of more advantage to the less
experienced shooter, won't hurt anybody's shooting, particularly if a series of
shots are to be fired.
At over 25 yards shooting should be deliberate, aimed, single action fire,
taking advantage of any rest available or holding the gun with both hands for
added steadiness. Hits without aiming at 25 yards and beyond, where the
strike of the bullet cannot be observed, are mostly accidental.
The ideal double action hold shown on right is nearly identical
to correct single action grip. Gun is directly in line with forearm.
The best that can be done with a small hand shown on left.
Necessary to reach around to reach trigger.
In any of the above methods of firing, the one most important item is, of
course, trigger control. Particularly in double action fire great care must be
taken to exert straight back pressure smoothly with the trigger finger only.
Pressure on one side of the trigger or squeezing with all the fingers will make
the gun move on let-off and you will have a miss. This is necessary even when
"digging out." You must control the trigger. In this connection there are two
schools of thought as to the best system of double action trigger control. One
of these theories is that the trigger should be brought quickly back to a point
just short of firing and then deliberately squeezed off from that point. In the
other system the trigger is pulled straight through without hesitation. Person-
ally, although I have seen fine shooting done using the first method, I favor the
second style for the following reasons: The system of a two stage pull appears
to me to have no appreciable speed advantage over single action fire, inasmuch
as a trained shooter can cock a revolver about as fast as the hammer can be
moved back by the double action method, if the double action shooter is
concentrating on stopping that movement before the gun fires; it is not as
accurate as single action; and there is always a possibility of firing before ready
due to going past the stopping point. Additionally, I think that a person
would be more apt to flinch under the pressure of a gun fight if using this
method. The straight through pull is much faster and more positive. Due to
the construction of the weapons, a Colt lends itself admirably to the two stage
method while the S&W is the better for a one stage pull.
Another question which is often asked concerns the correct hand and trigger
finger position for double action shooting. Needless to say, the best position is
the same one used in single action fire, with the exception that the thumb
should not ride high but should be curled firmly down onto the second finger.
The revolver should be a continuation of the straight line of the forearm and
the trigger should be contacted at a point midway between the tip and first joint
of the index finger. This is the best position, but unfortunately we are
restricted in these matters by the size, shape, and strength of the hands. Very
few people have sufficient power in the trigger finger to use the position
described above to deliver a smooth double action pull. Most are compelled to
place the second joint on the trigger in order to pull it smoothly. This, unless
the hand is very large and the finger unusually long, requires that a grip much
further around to the right than is desirable be taken in order to properly
position the finger. If you have the hands for it, use the orthodox grip and
pull. If you don't, improvise the best possible grip that will allow you to make
a smooth, straight back pull on the trigger. Remember — the trigger pull is the
important item — not the grip. As a matter of fact, when drawing and firing
quickly, one is seldom skillful or lucky enough to get a perfect grip — which
matters very little if the trigger is properly controlled. Practice, of course, is
the ultimate secret. For distances up to 7 yards, wax bullet loads should be
used. They give you the answers without any of the danger of fast work with
One last suggestion: For 90% of your practice, draw from the holster and
fire one shot. It's that first shot that is important and it is the one most difficult
to place accurately. Don't practice "hosing" your shots, depending on seeing
hits to get you on target. You learn nothing from this and you are lost if you
can't see the strike of your bullets. Your crutch won't work at night or with no
background to mark your shots, and then you will be in bad trouble. The first
shot is all important, and if it is in, the others will follow.
For the other 10%, if you are concentrating on that first shot and it goes in
you will have no difficulty with the rest of the burst. Your wrist and forearm
will stiffen automatically for recoil control. And above all, take all the time
necessary but don't dawdle. Remember, "speed's fine, but accuracy's
final" — if you are given time to display it!
SEVERAL YEARS ago Harlon Carter, later Chief of the U. S. Border Patrol
and now a Regional Commissioner of the Immigration Service, was glumly
reviewing scores fired by himself in a Florida Pistol Match in which he had
finished in second place, only a few points behind Harry Reeves. This
untoward finish was the result of a mental lapse accompanied by a twitch of the
right index finger about halfway through the .45 Rapid Fire Match, which same
had cost him a whole fistful of points and untold mental anguish. So Mr.
Carter was engaged in the popular pastime known to pistol shooters and poker
players the world over as "rabbit hunting." In retrospect, he had just refired
that fateful rapid fire string and was going into the .45 National Match Course
(which he had won handily — and actually) two points ahead of the eventual
winner. It was at this unfortunate moment that he was approached by a well
meaning individual and congratulated on his fine performance. Carter's face
turned a choleric red and his neck swelled a full inch to a size nineteen, but with
admirable restraint, before stalking stiff-legged away, he merely remarked with
great dignity: "I wouldn't wish my worst enemy second place"!!!!!
The repressed bitterness behind that statement is known only too well to
match shooters. The winner of each class gets a trophy, assorted merchandise
prizes and the plaudits of the populace. The runner-up has to be content with
a second place medal and the knowledge that within a week no one will know
who was second in the match, nor care. He is a sad hombre, but his unhappy
plight can well be envied by the man who comes out second in a pistol duel.
Not even a medal for him. The only prize he's likely to get is a monument.
THERE IS NO SECOND PLACE WINNER IN A GUN FIGHT!!!!!
That sage remark is of unrivaled importance to an enforcement officer.
Nothing he can buy from a life insurance firm takes the place of his ability to
shoot fast and accurately. Storebought insurance will make his wife a rich
widow, but it will be someone else who helps her spend the settlement. Not
too attractive a proposition from the masculine point of view. The kind of life
insurance he can buy with competent gun handling ability is obviously much
No normal man likes the thought of using a lethal weapon upon another
These are excellent side views of a correct double action grip. Note the
thumb folded down against fingers. Although the trigger has already
gone forward, the bottom figure was taken as a contrast shot at top of
recoil, .44 Magnum fired from the hip. Note the very slight upward move-
ment as compared with top photo taken just before firing and that there
has been no movement of the weapon in the hand. This last is due to a
good grip and well designed grips.
human. However, just as there are countries who have no regard for the rights
of other countries and use force to take what rightfully belongs to those other
countries, we have individuals who operate on the same brutal principle.
Both are criminals and both must be dealt with. To protect us from such
countries we have our armed forces. Law enforcement officers perform this
duty on an individual basis. In either case, superior force is the only thing that
criminals fully understand.
Many thousands of words have been written about "combat" shooting.
Unfortunately, the subject as usually handled is a misnomer. What is really
described at such length is a game. The equipment and methods described are
suited for competition with firearms under conditions which might occur in an
actual gunfight, but seldom do. I have no quarrel with such games, even
though the seriousness with which they are treated in print is often amusing.
They are just as good as any other shooting game and more practical than
most. They at least give some practice in a part of gunfighting which can be
practiced: double action shooting under tightly restricted time limits. They
certainly have more practical features than either our National Match Course
or, the other extreme, fast draw blank popping. However, the fact remains
that these all are games and should be considered as such. Otherwise, some
basically wrong thinking, particularly as to equipment, can result.
In this connection the question can be raised "What is real combat equip-
ment?" I have read recent articles in which the author had very definite ideas
on the subject. They were good ideas, but they were not on the subject he
thought he was covering. The designs of leather and the weapons advocated
were combat competition rigs. The automatics favored were fine for competi-
tion but impractical for everyday usage, as altered. They also were sadly lack-
ing in stopping power. The holsters slanted back and in some models were
strapped to the leg. Designs that might be excellent if an officer's career was
going to be one big continuous battle, but uncomfortable and impractical for
By now the answer to the question posed above must be quite obvious. Real
combat equipment is that gun and holster you carry forty hours a week plus
overtime. That's the one you are going to be wearing when trouble starts.
You can't figure on one rig for peace and one for war. If you can, make that
war rig a sawed-off shotgun and quit bothering about unimportant details!
In this book the fundamentals of the types of shooting most likely to be
useful in combat and the fundamentals of fast draw have been treated at some
length. Study of these and other articles can form a basis on which an officer
can prepare himself for combat situations, but from this point a literary hiatus
is encountered. If anything instructive has been written on the subject of
gunfighting, not as a game but as a grim reality, it has remained obscure.
There are probably several reasons for this omission: among them a natural
reluctance to write of the particulars of such a bloody business, aggravated by a
ridiculous taboo against any suggestion in writing that a handgun might be used
for another purpose than punching neat holes in a paper target. A more likely
reason for this dearth of material on the subject is that combat has no rules and
no clear-cut pattern which can be reduced to essentials and set up in a training
formula. There is no manual for gunfighting! It is different from military
warfare where, in even guerilla fighting, there is a set objective of capturing or
clearing territory. The only objectives in gunfighting are to live and either
capture or kill your opponent. You learn by experience — assuming survival.
Each fight is different and the officer must react differently — and always
correctly — to each. These reactions, even if proven correct by their success,
are not always logical appearing. At times the right action is "sensed" against
all logic and the wise man follows his hunch and lives. Instinct, born of a
terrible desire to survive, takes over; perceptions are sharpened and the right
move is taken because of subconscious reactions; the result of these abnormally
Feeling the need of some guidelines of survival in gunfighting, but realizing
that no hard and fast rules can apply, this section of this book will be devoted
to a discussion of a few "tricks of the trade." Just as there is little continuity in
a gun fight, there will be little here. Disjointed bits of information will make
up most of this treatment. In writing this chapter I do not wish to create the
impression that I am claiming to be an authority on the subject, or that the
coverage given is complete. On the other hand, no apologies are believed to be
in order. The information presented, while neither new nor startling, has been
passed around campfires and over coffee tables by fighting men the world over,
and is for the most part completely simple and obvious. In the belief that
sometimes the simplest and most obvious features are least observed, these
"tips" are herewith presented. Most of these comments, while descriptive of
outdoor situations, apply equally to city conditions. A bullet doesn't know the
difference between a rock and a fire plug. The back yards, alleys and tene-
ments of a city are a jungle where a mistake is just as final as it would be on a
brush lined bank of the Rio Grande.
A competitor in a pistol match, conventional or combat style, would be
thrown off the line for unsportsmanlike conduct if he tried to take an unfair
advantage to himself. We would all feel that his actions were deplorable, and
that his punishment was justified. This is an attitude which must be quickly
and firmly suppressed in mental conditioning for combat. Here is a game in
which you cannot afford to be a good loser — or any other kind. In a gunfight
you must take every advantage possible. Advantages which can be taken will
make up most of this article.
Any competitive pistol shooter will tell you that the most difficult action
under the stress of competition is to exert a smooth, even pull on the trigger.
This is a result of nervous tension, caused mostly by a desire to make a good
showing before the public. Consider, if you will, how this pressure is in-
tensified under combat conditions. The desire to appear well is replaced by a
much stronger desire just to continue to appear! You are struck with the
realization that your opposition is a man who is trying to kill you and that in
the next instant the world may have to find someone else to revolve about. His
bullet may end life for you! Nothing in your prior experience, except gunfight-
ing, can prepare you for this shocking thought. At this point the steadiness of
the target range is liable to desert you and you may tend to discard all the
fundamentals in a desperate attempt to get your shot in first. Here is where
training takes over or you break up.
A question often asked of themselves by young officers is, "How will I
comport myself in the face of fire? Will I stand up or will I break?" On the
surface this would appear to be a question which can be answered only if it
becomes an actuality. As a matter of fact the answer can be given with very
little chance of error. Almost invariably a man, provided he does not have too
much time to think, will automatically do what he has been trained to do.
Again provided that his training has been thorough and intensive. An example
in support of this statement comes to my mind: A few years back a Border
Patrol team became involved in a discussion with some contrabandistas in
which they were considerably embarrassed by one of the smugglers holed up in
some brush about 200 yards away. His presence unduly complicated the
proceedings in that he was armed with a .30-30 rifle with which he was
enthusiastically underscoring points in the argument made by the main group
of his compatriots. The Border Patrolmen were armed only with .38 Special
revolvers which put them at somewhat of a disadvantage under the circum-
stances. However, two of the three men applied themselves to the task of
routing the nearby enemy while the senior officer, Sam McKone, took up the
question of the rifleman in the brush.
They tell of a western epitaph which reads, "Here lies Tom Jones. Com-
mitted suicide by betting his pistol against a rifle at 200 yards." This could be
a normal result of such a contest, but Sam McKone is not one of the Jones
boys. Among his other marksmanship awards is a gold medal declaring him to
be a Distinguished Pistol Shot. Additionally, being shot at was not a matter to
distress Sam unduly, since it was not exactly a novel occurrence in his life. To
make a long story short, by applying a little Kentucky windage and an educated
trigger squeeze, Sam scored three hits which made the rifle shooter lose all
interest in the fate of his companions and start thinking solely of his own
welfare, here and hereafter. What has all this to do with the statement that a
man will do unconsciously as he was trained, provided the training was
thorough and extensive? Well, after the fight someone noted that McKone's
pocket was bulging and politely inquired as to what might be spoiling the drape
of his trousers. Puzzled, Sam thrust in an exploring hand. The pocket was
full of fired cases. During the fight, without realizing he was doing so,
McKone, an old reloader, had saved every empty!
It has been previously mentioned that nervous tension makes it difficult to
squeeze a trigger smoothly. This is further complicated in a gunfight by a
natural disinclination to pull the trigger at all when your weapon is pointed at a
human. Even though their own life was at stake, most officers report having
this trouble in their first fight. To aid in overcoming this reluctance it is helpful
if you can will yourself to think of your opponent as a mere target and not as a
human being. In this connection you should go further and pick a spot on the
target. This will allow better concentration and further remove the human
element from your thinking. If this works for you, try to continue this thought
that you were shooting a target after the fight is over. There is no point in
allowing yourself to feel remorse. A man who will resist an officer with
weapons has no respect for the rules by which decent people are governed. He
is an outlaw who has no place in world society. His removal is completely
justified, and should be accomplished dispassionately and without regret.
I consider myself fortunate in having known one of the greatest peace
officers this country has produced — Captain John Hughes of the Texas Rang-
ers. I met him through his close friendship with my late uncle, Dr. Ira Bush
of El Paso. Dr. Bush, I might mention in passing, was surgeon-general of the
Insurrecto Army under General Madero and Pancho Villa and wrote a book of
his experiences called Gringo Doctor. At the time I knew Captain Hughes I
was a young man just starting in law enforcement, while he was quite elderly
and long retired from active service. Like most old timers, he was reluctant to
talk of personal experiences but occasionally passed out advice well worth
heeding. One such gem that I have always remembered and will pass on was :
"If you get in a gunfight, don't let yourself feel rushed. Take your time,
Now this is advice not easy to follow when you are being shot at and
constantly reminded by the whine of bullets that man, meaning you, is mortal.
But all the knowledge you will ever learn about gun fighting is summed up in
those words. When you really understand their full meaning, you have come
of age. In order to follow this advice, mental discipline, the result of previous
hard thinking, is a must. And here a little applied psychology pays off. You
must force yourself to the belief that your opponent is going to choke up and
miss and that all you have to do to win is keep cool and make your shot — the
first one — a hit. This without letting your manufactured contempt get out of
hand and cause you to take foolish chances! With the vast majority of us this
attitude must be forced. In an occasional rare individual it is natural. He
responds to danger by turning into a machine — ignoring the fire of his oppo-
nents and placing his shots as though indulging in private target practice. This
is your true gun fighter. Of such material were the John Wesley Hardins and
other big names of a bygone era made.
Your movie-TV type of gunfight where two men stalked grimly toward each
other down a dusty street seldom if ever happened. Most of the battles
between officers and criminals have taken place under conditions of close range
and poor light and have borne little resemblance to the traditional personal
duel. Usually, several men were involved and they had plenty of advance
warning to enable them to fight from cover with weapons ready and opponents
chosen haphazardly as targets of opportunity. Occasionally, however, a man-
to-man situation evolves out of the big picture where a man is required to
literally beat his opponent to the draw. This can come about in a number of
ways, none of them often planned in advance! Usually in such cases both men
will react spontaneously, going for their guns, if not already drawn, and
shooting as quickly as possible. If this should occur at extreme close
range — powder burning distance — speed is of the essence. The man firing first
will probably win — unless he gets in too big a hurry and fires before he finishes
drawing. It is well for you to realize that there is a natural inclination to fire
before the gun is level. The answer to that problem is to think that you will get
a high let-off. Your shot will probably go off about navel height if you are
thinking strongly of a high chest or throat hit. In a situation such as the above
where you are not close enough to get a sure hit with the gun moving in the
motion of drawing, "Take your time, fast" applies. Pick the biggest, easiest
and softest target — the middle — and make your first shot good. The amount
of time you take, and how fast you take it, will depend almost entirely on the
distance of your target. Before hostilities are opened, never make a threaten-
ing motion without carrying it through. It may trigger your opponent's
reflexes and you will find yourself left at the gate. On the other hand, even if
he starts first, there is a good chance that he will hesitate. You keep a-coming
and maybe you can take advantage of that hesitation and catch up enough to
get there first. It doesn't pay to give up.
A gunfight is not a sporting event. Rules of fair play do not apply. If there
is any advantage to be had, be sure that your side takes it. More often than
not, the officers will know that an arrest is to be made and will have a good idea
whether the man or men to be arrested will be resentful to a positive degree.
Here a little advance planning is indicated. If possible, choose the battle-
ground and choose it with an eye to giving yourself all the breaks. You should
pick a position where any dazzling light will be to your back and in their eyes.
But be sure that you are not skylighted and that your background and clothing
blend. If your partner is one of long standing, each of you will probably know
how the other will react. In any event, prearranged plans and signals for
action should be set up and clearly understood. By all means, be sure that
your positions will complement each other so as to deliver the heaviest and
most effective fire on your opponents. There should be no possibility of a
maneuver on their part which could put you in your partner's line of fire or vice
versa. Of course, any or all of the above measures may be impossible. Just be
sure that you don't miss one that is possible.
Any element of surprise can be used in your favor. If you are in the
presence of a man you intend to arrest, watch him carefully. If he puts himself
in a bad position such as sitting in a chair with arms, which would impede his
access to a weapon, take instant advantage of any such mistake on his part and
take him them. On the contrary, if either of his hands are out of sight the
practice of patience would be advisable. Those hidden hands could be holding
Don't let your face or eyes give away your intention. If you can't depend on
a dead pan poker face remaining that way, smile! Then make your move and
carry it all the way through. If force is required, use enough to do the job, use
it first and without hesitation.
In arresting a man you have reason to believe to be dangerous, never give an
order such as the traditional "hands up" which would lead you to expect his
hands to move and might give him a winning start over your reflexes. The
Good two handed grips shown above and below. Using grip at top, left thumb is
used for cocking to fire single action.
prudent order in such a situation is "Don't move!" Followed by observance of
the usual precautions of searching and disarming taught any rookie at police
If you should be engaged at night or the target is otherwise poorly defined so
that you cannot be sure of a hit, hold low. The tendency is to shoot high
anyway and while a shot too high is of no value, a low shot might give you a
richochet hit. Besides, even if a miss, it will be more disconcerting to your
opponents hitting the ground where it can be seen or heard than moving
undetected through the air.
In a predicament where to move would give your position away, such as
might be the case in a dark room or alley where you know your man is near,
but neither of you knows exactly where the other is, sometimes throwing your
hat or some other object will draw his fire and give you an aiming point.
Speaking of hats : throwing yours into the face of a man with the "drop" could
distract him enough to give you your chance.
Now for a few don'ts:
Be sure that you have correctly identified your target, then lock on and keep
with it. Don't switch as long as your original target is available without a very
Unless you are directly engaged in a close range brawl where movement
would draw immediate fire, don't stay in the same place after firing. Keep
moving around. This can keep your opponent off balance — maybe guessing
at your position. In any event, a moving target is harder to hit even if you are
caught out in the open. It is generally better to move toward your left due to
the tendency most people have to "milk" their shots to the left. But remember
that this can be made to work two ways. Try shooting slightly to your right of
his gun flash at night instead of directly at it. (If he's left handed, you are real
unlucky!) And if you think he is firing and moving, a shot placed well to the
right just might find him at home . . . which should bring another message
home to you . . . while profiting by any such error by an opponent, avoid
setting a predictable pattern of your own.
In using a flashlight don't hold it in front of you when you turn it on. Hold it
at arm's length to the side. Remember that a flashlight allows you to see but
also makes a target of you, so use it sparingly. Flash it on to pick up the target
and then turn it off— unless you know that you have only one man to deal with
and you can flash it in his eyes. If you should be so lucky, hold it there and
make your move. You couldn't ask for better odds than that!
Don't wear light colored clothing, particularly at night. And above all, don't
wear a white shirt. It makes a beautiful bull's-eye. And if hit is very little
protection to the vitals it so conveniently pinpoints for the opposition.
Don't stand in the open. Use any cover available; and let's differentiate
between cover and concealment. Crouching behind a wooden barrel would
give you concealment, but very little protection from a bullet. Now if that
barrel was full of water you would have both — although it would be a good
idea to have some place else picked to go, in case your barrel sprang a leak!
Just being hidden is not enough, but it beats being out in the open. And
remember — shoot around the side of cover, not over the top. If no cover is
available, hit the deck. Don't mind the mud or filth, it will wash off. Just get
down there and make the smallest target possible — and for good measure, fire,
then roll to make yourself even more difficult to hit.
The old adage, "Don't draw unless you intend to shoot" is poor advice. It
should read, "Don't draw unless you are ready to shoot." Pulling a gun in a
situation where its use is not justified can wind up as highly embarrassing,
particularly if there are witnesses and the subject, sensing his advantage, should
pull some such histrionics as baring his chest and daring the officer to shoot!
On the other hand, there's no gainsaying the fact that "the fastest draw is to
have the gun in your hand when the fight starts," provided you are ready to use
it if necessary. It is an almost unbelievable fact that every year officers are
killed entering a known dangerous situation with holstered gun when they
might have lived had they taken the precaution of drawing the weapon before
the situation developed.
Don't use your gun as a club. There are seldom occasions when use of a
club is required to subdue a prisoner or to defend yourself. If the situation has
gotten that far out of control, use of the gun for the purpose for which it was
designed will likely be in order. And, in establishing the "amount of force
which was necessary," you will probably find it easier to convince a coroner's
jury that you didn't shoot him too much than that you didn't hit him too hard.
Besides which, a gun makes a very poor bludgeon. Due to the sharp corners,
while it will cut the scalp and probably cave in sections of bone, it seldom stuns
the person hit as would a smooth, blunt object. If other arguments against this
practice are needed, the following may be considered : A swing and a near miss,
such as might allow the wrist to hit instead of the gun, will probably cause the
gun to be dropped, leaving the officer unarmed; and, all handguns have
vulnerable points where a relatively light blow can cause a part to be bent,
jamming the action and making the weapon inoperative.
And one more thing: Pure "guts" have won many a gun fight. The man
who has enough determination is hard to down. You can keep on fighting even
if you are hit. If you make up your mind that you are going to get your bullet
into the other man, you will probably do it. And maybe that hit you took will
turn out not so bad as you thought, particularly if you stop him and keep him
from hitting you again. Doctors will tell you that many men give up and die
from wounds which were superficial, or which in any event should not have
been fatal. So don't forget — with enough determination you can win even
when you appear to be losing — just keep shooting!
HUNDREDS OF articles have been written by highly competent authors on
the basic fundamentals of shooting. A description of the individual steps
which make up good marksmanship: holding, sight alignment, trigger squeeze;
are available in books, pamphlets and magazine articles readily available to
any interested person. Similarly, a beginning officer has at his disposal the
fundamentals of his profession spelled out in laws and statutes and amplified by
the writings of experts. He is taught his duties and authorities in enforcing the
law in police schools and academies.
If it appears to the reader that I have ignored these fundamentals in this
book, his impression is only partially true. Let us say instead that I have
intentionally failed to cover these points in the belief that what has already
been well done many times over should not be belaboured here. In describing
basic methods of combat shooting I have mentioned that I considered this type
of gun work in the nature of postgraduate study, which should be attempted
only after the shooter was well grounded in all the details which make up good,
deliberate, aimed, single action marksmanship. Likewise, if I have failed to
point out in the chapter on gun fighting the limitations set on the use of firearms
by an officer in the performance of his duty, it is not due to lack of awareness or
concern with these matters, but because I feel that these limitations have been
too well denned elsewhere to give value to further mention here.
What I have tried to do instead, is to enter a field of professional marksman-
ship on which very little has been written by competent authorities and to
describe equipment, its care and use, in a way seldom, if ever, to be found in a
textbook or offered in formal training courses.
I realize that very few pages have been used to cover a subject on which
many pages could be written. This brevity has been deliberate. It was my
wish to present a text in which the grain could be harvested without too much
winnowing of the chaff. I have tried to write in such a way that there could be
no misunderstanding of my meanings and so that reference could be made to
any subject covered without undue search through a rubble of unnecessary
It was my thought that putting these matters down in print might be of great
aid to young officers, and as I laboured over these pages I was warmed by a
feeling of good doing and conscious worth . . . now that I have finished,
some doubt intrudes. Looking back down the years of my own career, I do not
recall many instances when I heeded the advice of my elders, preferring, as do
most young men, to learn by my own mistakes. This system has always
worked very well, since scars and bruises serve to underline a lesson learned.
The only trouble with this trial and error method, as regards the training of an
officer, is the inordinate amount of good luck sometimes required to complete
To persons leading more sedentary lives who chance to read these words, a
small glimpse into the lives of the men who stand watch while you sleep should
have been afforded. It is my hope that you have been in some measure
entertained and at the same time given more understanding of their problems
and more tolerance of their actions.
To the lawman of the future: I believe that the principles discussed herein
will be of meaning in your time. Not as historic data but as a living text to aid
officers in carrying out their duties in the world to come. Man has traveled
far . . . but I do not foresee a time when his combative, covetous nature
will not cause the less restrained to run afoul of constituted authority.
So . . . although the weapons of tomorrow may become more sophisti-
cated and the locale may be literally out of this world, I have confidence that
the lawman's ancient adversary will still be in operation — and that he will still
resent the placing of a curb on his larcenous or murderous impulses to a
positive degree. In which case . . . maybe this book will help you. Good